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Gloucestershire Business News

Special report: workplace safety

The Health and Safety Executive has urged motor repair workshops in Gloucestershire to ensure their processes and practices are fit for purpose.

National data stretching back to 2017 shows 21 workers in the auto repair sector have been killed in incidents since 2017 and the horrifying statistic comes in a month when the Health and Safety Executive, the government's occupational risk enforcer, warns of a rise in workplace death and injury .

The 2022-3 research shows 135 workers were killed in work-related incidents in Great Britain – a rise of 12).

The highest risk industries were (indicating deaths per industry):

● Construction (45)

● Agriculture, forestry, and fishing (21)

● Manufacturing (15)

● Transportation and storage (15)

And in a sobering analysis of these figures for rural Gloucestershire, the HSE reports that agriculture, forestry, and fishing were responsible for the highest industrial sector rate of fatal injury.

Since 2017, HSE data also shows 4,500 reportable work-related non-fatal injuries have also been recorded nationally at businesses involved in the sale and repair of motor vehicles.

With more than half of these deaths occuring while working under a vehicle, the HSE is highlighting this as a particular risk when a vehicle is incorrectly supported.

The annual death rate in motor vehicle repairs of 1.62 deaths per 100,000 workers - a risk that is four times the average rate across all industries.

An HSE spokesman said: "In total, 21 workers in the motor vehicle repair industry have been killed in the last five years – 13 of which were caused by work under a poorly supported vehicle.

Fiona McGarry, an HSE inspector, said: "One death is too many – to us, these tragedies could easily have been avoided, but they keep happening. Sadly, the phrase we hear too often is 'this will only take me a minute'. It is crucial the correct equipment is used when working under vehicles."

Alongside those 13 deaths, there are many more non-fatal injuries and near misses following work under poorly supported vehicles, it said.

McGarry added that the HSE is becoming increasingly concerned about the scale of the issue and a failure to learn from near misses.

"Some of these issues relate to smaller garages - places that are hard to reach. We have always had a strong relationship with the motor vehicle repair sector, and we respect the expertise of these small businesses.

"But as the issue has persisted, we needed to raise awareness of the issue together."

Julian Woods, CEO of the Garage Equipment Association, said: "We all need to be thinking of not only ourselves but everybody's health and safety. If we see an unsafe act we should raise it up and not just turn a blind eye and keep walking."

He added: "Any loss of life should be considered an unacceptable situation."

"It's all too easy to think it will never happen to me or it will only take a second to sort, so skip safety items to get the job done quickly, but these statistics are unacceptable."

The HSE's latest annual data, released earlier this month, covered April 2022 to March 2023.

For that year, the three most common causes of fatal injuries are falls from height (40), being struck by a moving object (29), and being struck by a moving vehicle (20).

A spokesman added: "The total of 135 worker deaths in 2022/23 is higher than the previous year (123) but is in line with pre-pandemic levels. The figure for 2020/21 was 145."

A further 68 members of the public were also killed following a work-related incident in 2022/23. This is a decrease of 20 from last year.

HSE's CEO Sarah Albon said: "Any loss of life in the workplace is a tragedy.

"While these figures show Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, safety must continue to be at the top of everyone's agenda.

"Our mission is to protect people and places and we remain committed to maintaining safe workplaces and holding employers to account for their actions."

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