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01/07/2008 - Employers allowed to kill and maim

At least twice as many people die from fatal injuries at work than are victims of homicide. That's the grim finding of a new report.  Professor Steve Tombs and Dr Dave Whyte found that at least 1,300 people died as a result of fatal occupational injuries in 2005-06 in England and Wales, compared with 765 homicide deaths.

Non-fatal workplace injuries requiring hospitalisation were also likely to be greater that year than those needing such treatment following the violent offences formally recorded as crimes. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies report 'A crisis of enforcement', argues that the recent trend towards 'light touch' regulation of business has in effect 'decriminalised' death and injury at work. Serious incidents are significantly under-reported, the research found.

Professor Steve Tombs said: 'Violent street crime consumes enormous political, media and academic energy. But, as hundreds of thousands of workers and their families know, it is the violence associated with working for a living that is most likely to kill and hospitalise.' Co-author Dr David Whyte was critical of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) enforcement record. He said: 'HSE enforcement notices fell by 40 per cent and prosecutions fell by 49 per cent between 2001/02 and 2005/06. The collapse in HSE enforcement and prosecution sends a clear message that the government is prepared to let employers kill and maim with impunity.' The report was welcomed by Unions including Solidarity.