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HSE responds to UCATT release on construction deaths statistics

On 18 February 2016, construction union UCATT issued a press release claiming there was a surge in prosecution delays and a fall in convictions…

On 18 February 2016, construction union UCATT issued a press release claiming there was a surge in prosecution delays and a fall in convictions following construction fatalities. UCATT relied on information that was included in a Parliamentary Question response by the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’). HSE construction sector responded to UCATT’s interpretation of the statistics below:

“There has been no fall in conviction rates for HSE prosecutions. It actually rose from 92% in 2010/11 to 94% in 2014/15.The reduction referred to in the UCATT statement (we think) relates to the numbers of fatalities in construction for which prosecutions have been approved. The percentage of fatalities leading to a decision to prosecute in the same year will be lower in more recent years as a number of the more complex investigations will still be on-going or are progressing through the courts. The number of prosecution approvals should also be seen against an overall reduction in construction fatalities from over 100 in 2000/01 to 39 in 2014/15.”

The HSE also reiterated in its response the need for all workplace fatalities to be investigated thoroughly to prevent a recurrence and to ensure that where breaches of health and safety requirements are identified those who have failed in their responsibilities are held accountable. Although it was accepted by the HSE that they do not prosecute in every case, they reinforced the need to take account of the evidential stage and the relevant public interest factors set down by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Further, the HSE went on to explain the potential reasoning behind prosecution delays:

“As a result of the drive to reduce investigation time and conclude long running investigations, HSE has in recent years concluded several complex investigations. This has meant average time taken between an incident and a prosecution approval has increased in the most recent years, but other data provided in response to Parliamentary Questions shows that over the last 10 years, 23 percent of cases were approved for prosecution within a year of a fatality, 27 percent in the second year, and 30 percent in the third. Therefore 80 percent of HSE prosecutions were approved within the WRDP three-year period. This percentage is still rising.”