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The number of companies prosecuted by the Health and Safety (HSE) executive over construction deaths has fallen despite an increase in the number of fatalities, construction union Ucatt has said.

A study on behalf of the union by the Centre for Corporate Accountability showed a fall in the proportion of successful HSE prosecutions following fatalities from 42 per cent of cases in 1998 to 11 per cent in 2006.

Breaches of health and safety guidelines that could lead to prosecution in the event of death or injury include failure to provide workers with the necessary personal protective equipment for their job.

Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie called the trend 'profoundly shocking.'

The HSE internal audit found that it was successfully prosecuting in 60 per cent of fatality cases when it believed 70 per cent were due to management failures of health and safety, the Times reports.

A spokesperson for the HSE told the paper: 'The audit we conducted last year found that, in the vast majority of cases, HSE inspectors took the appropriate course of action, but it also recognised that there were areas of improvement which we are addressing.'

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