If only! Regrettably accidents at work remain a source of serious injury and fatalities, as has been the case since people started to go to work and particularly since industrialisation began. Many historical memorials to those who have lost the lives at work remind us of that past – like the one in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral commemorating men who died in the construction of the nearby town hall on 26th January 1833.
Things have undoubtedly improved since then. Responsible employers now use better technology to keep workers safe. There is a much stronger culture of recognising the importance of health and safety, and adopting an approach of accurately assessing risks and then seeking to reduce or eliminate them. So it might be considered a surprise that this week the production company involved in “Star Wars – The Force Awakens” is to face four charges in relation to an accident that befell actor Harrison Ford in June 2014 when he was struck by a hydraulic door at Pinewood Studios. That case will be heard by High Wycombe Magistrates Court on 12th May 2016, the charges are denied.
In other cases, we do know that the prevalence of accidents at work remains high. In the most recent Health & Safety Executive report issued in 2014/2015, it was recorded that 142 worker were killed because of work related accidents in the year that statistics were collected. A further 611,000 injuries were estimated to have occurred. The report concluded that there was a staggering cost of £14.3 billion related to injuries and ill health from working conditions.
The improvements to health and safety over time are clear and cannot be denied. However, the figures remain high, and each one has a tragedy behind it. Employers can still make mistakes and be negligent, and workers still lose their lives or receive serious injuries as a result. One death is one too many, and not only is this not a time for employers to rest on their laurels, but actually to redouble their efforts to ensure everyone who goes to work goes home safely by the end of the working day.