The number of UK deaths from the Asbestos disease Mesothelioma has increased over the last few years, new figures have revealed.
According to data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 2,291 people in the UK died from the asbestos-related disease in 2011. However, this figure went up to 2,535 in 2012.
Commenting on the increasing number of Mesothelioma cases, chair of the HSE Judith Hackitt said it's a reminder of how health and safety standards in the workplace have been "historically poor". She stated that failings in the past are still causing "thousands of painful, untimely deaths each year."
"While we now recognise and are better positioned to manage such health risks, these statistics are a stark reminder of the importance of keeping health standards in the workplace on a par with those we apply to safety," Ms Hackitt commented.
Number of Worker Deaths is Down
However, the HSE did have some positive news in its latest statistical release, with figures showing that the annual number of fatal workplace accidents in the UK has fallen to a record low.
A total of 133 people suffered fatal injuries at work between April 2013 and March 2014, down from 150 in 2012-13. This led to the overall rate of fatal work accidents dropping from 0.51 per 100,000 workers to 0.44 during this period.
Ms Hackitt acknowledged that the figures lead to mixed emotions, as the HSE feels sad for the 133 people who have died and sympathy for their friends, relatives and colleagues.
However, she said it is encouraging that progress in "reducing the toll of suffering" is still being made. "Whilst these are only provisional figures, they confirm Britain's performance in health and safety as world-class," Ms Hackitt remarked.
She said the UK has consistently recorded some of the lowest workplace fatality rates in Europe over the last eight years.
Work Death Rate Highest in the Construction Industry
HSE statistics went on to identify which sectors are proving to be particularly dangerous at the moment. The highest number of fatalities occurred in the construction sector, with 42 deaths taking place during 2013-14.
Meanwhile, there were 27 deaths in the agriculture sector, while four fatalities were recorded in waste and recycling.
Mike Penning, the health and safety minister, responded to the figures by stating that workplaces across Britain are "getting safer".
He commended the Health and Safety Executive for its efforts in making sure people in the UK can go to work confident that their safety is "being taken seriously". However, the minister insisted that any death in the workplace is still "a death too many".
Statistics from the HSE also outlined where in the UK these fatalities are occurring. A total of 106 deaths were recorded in England during 2013-14, which works out to 0.41 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Scotland experienced 20 fatal injuries (0.78 deaths per 100,000 workers) throughout the year, while seven fatal injuries (0.52 deaths per 100,000 workers) took place in Wales.
By Francesca Witney