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Health and social care workers make up majority of Covid-linked occupational deaths, statistics reveal

WORKERS in health and social care made up the majority of reported occupational deaths linked to Covid-19, according to data revealed today by a freedom of information (FoI) request.

Some 31,000 suspected cases of occupational exposure to coronavirus were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) between April 10 2020 and March 13 2021.

A total of 367 deaths have been linked to workplace Covid-19 exposure during those 11 months, and 70 per cent of the deaths (257 fatalities) were in the health and social care sector, the figures released in response to an FoI submitted by GMB union also show.

In educational settings, 2,134 staff infections and seven deaths were also recorded since the start of September despite ministers’ repeated promises that schools were safe.

The figures are likely just the “tip of the iceberg” of exposure and deaths among workers, the GMB said, as the HSE has acknowledged that under-reporting is common.

The union called for urgent investment to make workplaces safe and full sick pay cover so that workers can afford to self-isolate.

GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said that the figures should serve as a “wake-up call” for ministers and that the government should agree to meet unions for talks soon.

“No-one should go to work in fear of their life,” she said. “Each worker’s death was preventable and the damning reality is that too many workplaces are still not safe.”

The warning comes after Labour’s shadow employment rights secretary Andy McDonald branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson “irresponsible” last weekend for suggesting that people have had enough “days off” and should return to their workplaces in the near future.

The government has not yet changed its official advice for people to work from home if possible, despite falls in Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths over recent weeks, but the issue is the subject of a government review.

In light of the new HSE data, the TUC warned against any relaxation of Covid-19 workplace safety measures.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want the economy to reopen as soon as possible and for workers to be able to return to their workplaces.

“But this must be done in a safe and responsible way. Neither testing or vaccinations remove the need for employers to make sure that workplaces are Covid-secure. 

”Now is not the time to slack on safe working arrangements. The last thing we need is another spike in infections.”

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