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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 09:18 GMT
Partnership to curb accidents at work
Building site
Traditionally dangerous industries will be targeted
Unions and employers are launching a joint effort to try to reduce the number of accidents and illnesses at work.

Lost production, accidents and the resulting strain on the NHS costs the UK an estimated 18bn a year.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) says 20,000 major injuries and more than 300,000 sick days could be avoided if firms work together to tackle health and safety issues.

Partnership is about revitalising health and safety and can mean fewer injuries, few illnesses and fewer days off

John Monks, TUC
Firms that have already adopted a partnership approach have seen accident rates fall by more than 50%, it says.

The initiative is being launched in London by the Confederation of British Industry and the TUC.

There are 20 safety partnership agreements in place across the UK and the TUC want to double that number by the end of next year.

The first partnerships were launched last year and include Legal and General and white collar union MSF and Tesco and the shop workers union, Usdaw.

They have seen accident rates fall dramatically.


TUC general secretary John Monks said his union was particularly concerned by accidents in the construction and rail industry.

"Tragedies on the railways and in construction show that where partnerships do not exist, it is vital that we introduce them," he said.

"Partnership is about revitalising health and safety and can mean fewer injuries, few illnesses and fewer days off."

According to government figures, accidents at work kill about 400 people each year in the UK, with 25 million working days lost annually through stress and illness.

Biggest killer

Work-related ill-health forces more than 25,000 workers to give up their jobs each year and an estimated two million people suffer from bad health blamed on their workplace.

The numbers of workers suffering from stress has grown to 500,000 a year.

Back problems are the most common work-related ailment and falls are the biggest killer.

Less immediate but no less deadly is previous exposure to asbestos, which kills an estimated 3,000 people annually in the UK.

The government launched a 44-point action plan last June to tackle the huge cost to industry of health and safety problems.

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