BUSINESSES in Scotland are being urged to ensure employee protection is a priority after a 70% rise in the number of people killed in workplace accidents.

New figures have revealed that 29 people were killed at work last year – up from 17 in the previous 12 months. The average for the past five years is 19 deaths per year.

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said: “Scotland, and indeed the rest of Britain, is one of the safest places in the world to work and is much safer than it was four decades ago.

“This is down to many reasons, including legislation and regulation, but there is also a real drive among businesses to protect their employees, recognising the benefits that brings.

“However, we cannot become complacent given that 29 people were killed at work last year, especially given the noticeable rise from the previous year and over the five-year average.

“That is 29 too many. It is 29 families suffering the pain and anguish of a lost loved one. The fact that workplace accidents are preventable only adds to the pain.

“All working people have the right to expect their safety, health and wellbeing will not be put at risk by work.

“Employers must ensure they have strong measures in place to protect them.

“Good occupational safety and health management helps ensure that all workers, young and old, can fulfil their potential at work and come home safe.”

The figures highlighted the most dangerous sectors, with 32 deaths in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and 30 in construction.

The most common cause of deaths for all ages was falls from height, accounting for 40 cases, while 30 workers died after being struck by a moving vehicle.

A quarter of those killed were aged 60 or over.