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The latest workplace statistics show a 4% increase in the number of deaths at work last year. New HSE statistics report that 235 people were killed at work in 2003/4, eight more than in the previous year. Nine per cent of all fatal injuries to workers occurred in one single incident when 21 people drowned while harvesting cockles in Morecambe Bay in February.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "The government committed itself to achieving a five per cent decrease in the number of deaths at work between 2000 and 2004. Instead deaths have increased again this year. If the government is serious about reducing the levels of deaths and injuries it must increase the resources available to local authorities and the Health and Safety Commission for enforcing health and safety law."

He added: "It is also imperative that the government legislates for new health and safety duties for directors and makes good its commitment to introduce a new offence of corporate killing."

The TUC has also asked for urgent action to address the health and safety risks to migrant workers following the tragedy in Morecambe Bay.

Bill Callaghan of the HSE commented, "I am disappointed there has been no improvement in the number of reported fatalities this year - these aggregate figures represent 235 individual tragedies. These can be avoided, but often simple measures, ones that can prevent accidents, are not being put in place. Clearly the results of this year's report show falls from height remain a big safety problem, but incidents such as Morecambe Bay raise new issues. HSE has been working with industry to provide guidance in this area of work as the investigation continues. All workers, whatever their nationality or employment status, are subject to the protection and responsibilities of health and safety law."

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