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Workplace fatal injuries hit a record low at 180 between 2008 and 2009

Britain has become a safer place to work, with the number of workplace fatal injuries dropping to a record low in 2009, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The statistics show workplace fatal injuries fell from 233 in 2007/08 to 180 in 2008/09, and there was a reduction of more than 7,000 in the number of workplace injuries classified as serious or requiring more than three days absence from work.

Across England, Scotland and Wales, 29.3 million working days (equivalent to 1.24 days per worker) were lost to injury and ill health last year - compared with 33.9 million in 2007/08. And comparison with international data shows Britain to be one of the safest places to work in the EU.

A statistically significant fall was recorded in the estimated number of self-reported injuries - down from 299,000 in 2007/08 to 246,000 last year.

This improvement saw business lose 1.6 million fewer working days through all types of injury, a total of 4.7 million.

The number of people estimated to be suffering from work-related ill health fell by 79,000 in 2008/09 to 1.2 million.

Judith Hackitt, chair of HSE said: "It is really encouraging to see these improvements in the numbers of deaths, injuries and cases of ill health at work over the past year.

"Protecting people from harm caused by work remains important irrespective of the economic climate. Having shown that Great Britain can achieve a performance that compares favourably with other industrialised nations as we entered the global recession, the challenge now is to maintain that improvement as we move towards recovery and increased activity in some economic sectors.

"In spite of the encouraging overall statistics today let's not forget that they tell also us a story of individuals and families who have suffered. This underlines the real risks that people can face at work every day. This is what the real health and safety agenda has always been about and it will continue to be so."

A spokeswoman from the British Safety Council added: "The downward trend will be of little consolation to the relatives and friends of the 180 people killed at work last year. Accident rates in the construction industry account for the largest number of fatal injuries each year compared with other main industry groups. Our conference in London next week will focus on this.

"Although training and education will stop people being killed and avoid injury, creating a safer working environment for colleagues needs everyone's commitment. The human balance sheet should be part and parcel of a company's financial success"

Major injuries at work have fallen since 2000 and this trend continued last year with 28,692 workers reported as being injured in 2008/09 (94.8 per 100,000) compared with 29,389 in 2007/08 (96.5 per 100,000).