The rate of workplace accidents in which people are killed or seriously injured is higher in the Westcountry than the rest of Britain, new figures have revealed.
The report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has led to calls for tougher sanctions on businesses accused of not putting the safety of staff first.
The HSE revealed that a dozen people were killed in workplace incidents in 2012-13, and another 1,876 suffered a major injury.
There were also 4,662 injuries to employees that required them to be off work for more than a week. That meant the rate of death or serious injury to workers in the region was 81.4 for every 100,000 employees – higher than the national average rate of 78.9.
Regional TUC secretary Nigel Costley said that while the number of people killed was down from 15 the year before to 12 last year, that had more to do with fewer people actually working in the construction industry.
With a higher than average proportion of the workforce engaged in traditionally dangerous jobs in fishing and agriculture, the region’s fatality rates have remained stubbornly high.
“Most workers don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic so-called accidents,” said Mr Costley. “They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority.
“Of course, it’s good news that figures are down from 2012, but those statistics don’t tell the entire story.
“Not only are there fewer people working in construction than then, but these figures refer solely to people killed and injured at work, not those killed or injured as a result of their work. This misses out injuries such as stress and mesothelioma.”
Statistics from the HSE showed in the 30 years to 2011, a total of 4,104 people have died from mesothelioma – an asbestos-related cancer – in the South West.
Health chiefs in the region have warned they are expecting a “spike” in hospital admissions, and deaths from the debilitating and incurable lung disease for the rest of the decade, as the workers exposed to asbestos during the 1960s develop the condition.