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There was both good and bad news to be gleaned from the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) recent annual report on workplace injuries in the UK.

The good news is that the number of fatal injuries in the workplace had fallen from that of previous years, and overall, there were fewer injuries sustained as a result of accidents in the workplace.

The bad news, however, is that the number of days lost due to work-related injuries or health issues, such as those caused by industrial disease, has remained the same as five years ago – so, no progress there.

This news would suggest that injury and illness suffered by workers is having a long-term effect on health.

Further bad news came for Scotland, as the country was reported as having the highest number of fatal workplace accidents within the UK - 20 people died last year.

In a statement reported by the Belfast Telegraph, the General Secretary for Scottish Trade Union Congress (TUC) blamed government cuts for the unchanged statistics.

Grahame Smith also reminded the public that the number of Scottish deaths did not include those caused by industrial diseases, such as mesothelioma, nor did it include work-related road traffic accidents or suicides. This would have increased the number considerably.

It is perhaps no surprise that Scotland may fair unfavourably in the statistics. The HSE report for the whole of the UK showed that manufacturing and construction industries were among the most likely to experience accidents and related health issues.

In 2013 over 3,100 cases were reported in the manufacturing sector alone. The construction business saw nearly 2,000 injuries. A large proportion of Scotland's industry is made from manufacturing and construction, and such jobs come with added risks.

But even with heightened risk, injury statistics should be falling and not remaining static. So, how can the government tackle the problem of workplace injury and industrial disease?

Across 2013 and 2014, around 2 million people suffered an illness caused or exacerbated by the workplace. The findings suggest that enforcement action is required to tackle work environments that expose employees to harmful substances or disregard pre-existing health conditions.

The STUC's Grahame Smith believes that a "lack of proactive inspections" may be to blame for Scotland falling behind the rest of the UK when it comes to enforcement and prosecution, again linking this back to government cuts.

Whilst the debate as to why statistics are remaining stubbornly at the same level continues, it is worth noting that the UK is still one of the safest places to work in Europe and that even with budget cuts, the HSE investigations have helped many claimants with provide evidence for personal injury claims. Good work is being done. The trend simply needs to move upward.

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