A bid to make health and safety issues more prominent on company agendas has been launched by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC).

Companies have until March 9 to comment on a draft HSC code which will make directors and board members more accountable for the protection of their employees and the public.

The move has been welcomed by the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and the Woodworking Machinery Suppliers Association (WMSA).

Gordon Mellor, industrial relations adviser to the TTF, said: ‘We want to see health and safety initiatives developed by our member companies.’

And Tony Kaye for the WMSA said: ‘We know we have a far higher incident rate than other manufacturing industries and it is an issue we keep pumping across to our members. We are especially concerned about the lack of proper training and that is an area we will address this year.’

Edward Marshall, principal inspector for the wood group of the HSC, said the woodworking industry has a 30% higher incident rate than manufacturing as a whole and in sawmilling the injury rate is around three times higher than in kitchen manufacture.

He said: ‘The industry sees about 2,800 employees injured a year. Just under 30% are caused by manual handling, 25% by machinery and 19-20% by falling objects.’

Under current law, individual directors and managers can be prosecuted if their actions – or lack of them – lead to work-related deaths, illness or injury.

HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said too many companies fail to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. ‘This should be a core requirement of business activity, not an inconvenient "add-on",’ he said.

  • A Lochaber haulage company faces health and safety charges following a fatal accident two years ago.

    A man was killed and his wife seriously injured when they collided with timber from a lorry on the Glasgow-Inverness road.

    The Health and Safety Executive says the lorry’s owners failed to ensure the timber was properly secured and failed to provide adequate instructions to ensure its safe loading and transport.