Workplace Deaths: Scotland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:11 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:11 pm, 24th July 2019

My hon. Friend makes a typically constructive suggestion. As these terrible incidents happen, lessons are learned and shared and best practice is promoted. That is exactly the sort of lesson that we can push, and I know he will be a strong advocate on that.

Any death is unacceptable, so we must emphasise the importance of continuing to focus on working with businesses, workers, trade associations and others to prevent deaths by improving risk control. The primary responsibility for managing risks to people’s health and safety from work activities lies with the business or the person who creates the risk. HSE evidence shows that the key drivers of health and safety risk are industry sector, occupation and duty-holder attitude, rather than geographical location.

The regulator also plays an important part in improving standards. In cases of workplace deaths, investigation is a priority for the HSE. Through investigation, inspection and enforcement the HSE can: ensure individual businesses are managing risks properly; hold to account those who have failed in their statutory duties; and learn the lessons that play into industry to ensure that health and safety management continues to improve across the country. In practice, that means that during an investigation the regulator may take enforcement action to address conditions found on site. Following an investigation, there may be prosecution action in England and Wales, and in Scotland a recommendation to prosecute may be presented to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Outcomes of investigations and prosecutions form the base of communications activity to highlight our expectations and have an educational and deterrent effect across businesses. Finally, lessons learned are discussed with industry stakeholders and, as necessary, fed into new or existing guidance to drive future improvement.

Analysis of incidents shows us that the main causes of fatal injuries to workers by industry sector are the same whether in Scotland, England or Wales. In agriculture, they include workplace transport, falls from a height and being killed by cattle. In construction, over half of all fatal injuries to workers over the last five years across Great Britain resulted from falls from a height. Factors contributing to fatal accidents across all industries include a lack of planning, training, maintenance and understanding of risk as well as poor risk management. The sad thing is that, as the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill mentioned, those causes are well known, as are the steps that can be taken to prevent them. There is much good guidance available from the HSE and industry that cover them.

In February 2016, the “Helping Great Britain Work Well” strategy, aimed at improving health and safety across Great Britain, was launched. I was pleased to write the foreword, which highlighted that we need to act together and help businesses to manage their risks well. The regulators cannot do it all, but the HSE will continue to work with businesses, workers and stakeholders to promote better working practices to protect workers.