Call for health and safety 'tsar'
Union leaders have pressed the Government to appoint a health and safety "tsar" after a new study showed that more than 20,000 people were killed prematurely by their work every year.
The TUC said its research smashed the "myth" that Britain was one of the safest countries in which to work, with people dying through conditions such as occupational cancers and lung disorders, exposure to fumes and chemicals, and traffic accidents.
The report, The Case for Health and Safety, also claimed that many workplace accidents were not reported.
About 1.2 million people believed they were suffering from a work-related illness, such as heart disease, stress, back and shoulder pains or depression, said the TUC.
The union organisation called on the Government to ignore calls from the business lobby to reduce legislation, and to appoint a health and safety tsar.
General secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite the way that health and safety is often pilloried, for those who are made ill or injured at work and for the relatives of those who have died as a result of their work, health and safety is no joke.
"Regulation works, as long as it is enforced, and it saves lives and prevents the contraction of unnecessary illnesses. That is why the UK continues to need strong regulation and enforcement.
"Every one of the 20,000 annual workplace-related deaths could have been prevented and if the level of Health and Safety Executive and local authority funding is cut, the effects will be even more catastrophic.
"Fatalities are not just statistics - they are real people, with lives and families - and any fall in inspections and enforcement will lead to an increase in accidents, injuries and deaths, and will have a huge impact on the already grave problem of workplace diseases."