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Health And Safety

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of Stare for Employment in how many cases the Health and Safety Executive has (a) prosecuted, (b) issued a prohibition notice and (c) issued an improvement notice (i) in total, (ii) relating to diseases, (iii) relating to cancer and (iv) relating to asbestos during the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The following table shows enforcement action taken by Health and Safety Commission enforcement authorities in 1980 and 1981.A breakdown into the specified categories is available only for Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate, for whom information on notices relating to 1981 is not yet available. Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate figures represent the bulk of cases other than those relating to local authorities. The pattern for Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate is unlikely to differ much from that shown for 1980.Enforcement action normally relates to a situation regarded as hazardous to health rather than to a particular case of prescribed industrial disease. The relevant line in the table therefore refers to the wider category of "health matters". These in turn are distinguishable only when specifically related to health matters. Information has been provided in respect of all health matters.

† The figures for notices for Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate analysed by specific categories cover only those for which action was completed by the end of 1980. They may therefore be slightly understated.

‡Not yet available.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will publish in the Official Report the most recent year's statistics of the number of occupational deaths from (a) accidents, (b) diseases, (c) cancer and (d) asbestos; and if he will assess the reliability of such statistics.

There were 581 fatal injuries to employees reported to Health and Safety Commission authorities, and to other authorities in respect of merchant shipping—including fishing—and civil aviation. Reporting and attribution of fatalities is believed to be reasonably complete and the category of "employees" is reasonably well defined. In addition, there were 175 fatalities similarly reported involving the self-employed and other non-employees killed as a result of work activities. The attribution of these can be wide ranging, since, for example, the fatalities in a recent lifeboat disaster were included in the phrase "as a result of work activity".Industrial death benefit and similar compensation has been awarded in respect of 648 deaths from "prescribed industrial disease" in 1981; this figure is provisional. But this figure can only reflect known "prescribed industrial diseases". There is no reliable overall estimate of all deaths from disease which might be attributable to working conditions.Nearly all reported cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma—a form of cancer—must be attributed to exposure to asbestos at work. In 1980, there were 530 deaths in which one or both of these diseases was mentioned on the death certificate: 162 mentions of asbestosis and 434 mentions of mesothelioma. These diseases are the only asbestos-related diseases for which mortality statistics are held.In addition, there were 15 cases in which industrial death benefit was claimed in 1981—this figure is provisional—in which a cancer other than mesothelioma was mentioned. These relate to "prescribed industrial diseases" which are a clearly defined category of illnesses. For the foregoing reasons, it is believed there is no reliable known total of cancers whose cause might be occupational.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what methods are used by the Health and Safety Executive to estimate the annual rate of occupational cancer deaths; and what estimates have been made.

There is no exact method of estimating the annual rate of occupational cancer deaths since neither the absolute number of such deaths nor the population at risk through exposure at work to carcinogenic substances can be reliably known. Most occupationally linked cancers cannot be individually identified as such with any certainty, and published estimates of their total number have varied very widely. A recent study commissioned by the National Cancer Institute in the United States of America concluded that between 2 and 8 per cent. of all American cancer deaths could be avoided if all occupational carcinogenic influences were eliminated.