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Accident rate fall raises HSE suspicions

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HEALTH & SAFETY Executive officials are investigating whether construction firms involved in major accidents are covering them up instead of reporting them.

The Executive (HSE) fears that, rather than running safer sites, many firms are choosing to break the law by keeping quiet about accidents.

Figures for non-fatal construction accidents have been falling for a decade, but last year deaths on UK construction sites were at a 10 year high.

And after comparing the number of incidents logged with those it was tipped off about, the HSE has calculated that only 44% of all non-fatal accidents were reported last year.

Just 4% of self-employed construction workers suffering injury or illness came forward to report accidents.

In all, 106 workers were killed in construction accidents in 2000-01, up from 79 in 1995-96.

Eight members of the public died compared with three five years ago. By contrast, incident rates for non-fatal injuries has fallen from 253.5 per 100,000 workers in 1996 to 223 last year.

The HSE is now investigating which types of company do and do not report accidents. Findings will be used to target the HSE's resources and inspection strategy following the next government spending review.

Proportionally, workers employed by small firms and operating on a self-employed basis suffer a higher injury rate than workers employed by large contractors.

Reportable major injuries include: fractures, amputations and dislocations, damage to the eyes, electric shock, asphyxiation, poisoning, or any injury resulting in 24 hours or more hospitalisation/three days off work.

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