HSE Workplace Fatality Statistics - No Room for Complacency in Construction!

HSE Workplace Fatality Statistics - No Room for Complacency in Construction!

10th July 2019

In a stark reminder of why we need to exercise vigilance at all times when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released the latest statistics on workplace safety.  The report revealed that there were 147 fatal injuries to workers in the UK in the period covering April 2018 to March 2019 (a rate of 0.45 per 100,000 workers), which is an increase of 6 over the previous year.

Despite the long-term reduction in the number of workplace fatalities here in the UK since 1981, the number has been relatively level in recent years.  However, if we’re to reduce the number of fatalities further, or eliminate them altogether, there is no room for complacency as there is still work to be done. 

The two main sectors in which the deaths occurred were as follows:

  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing – 32 deaths
  • Construction- 30 deaths. 

Despite the fact that agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for just a small number of the UK’s workforce, it’s responsible for more than 20% of workplace fatalities, so that sector still has a long way to go in addressing health and safety issues.

The construction sector, however, accounts for 6.8% of all jobs in Britain, employing a massive workforce of nearly 2.5 million.  This means that the percentage of fatalities in construction workers is much lower – but still an unacceptable number, especially for those who work in the sector. 

The most common causes of fatal injuries in the workplace are:

  • Falling from height (40 deaths)
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle (30)
  • Being struck by a moving object (16)

Whilst not all of these deaths occurred in the construction sector, all three causes are listed as common risk factors when working on construction sites. 

Mesothelioma as a result of past exposure to asbestos was responsible for more than 2.5 thousand deaths here in the UK in 2017.  These figures clearly demonstrate the repercussions the past prolific use of asbestos before its total ban in the UK in 1999. 

There is still plenty of asbestos out there, lurking in buildings across the UK, as we’ve pointed out several times over recent years.  Asbestos is usually discovered during construction, demolition or refurbishment work and there are strict laws governing the discovery and removal of asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs).  Still, this is a timely reminder of the importance of asbestos legislation and the requirement to adhere strictly to the regulations governing asbestos, an issue that anybody working in construction should be fully aware of.

When it comes to age, the statistics reveal that older workers are more at risk than their younger counterparts.  In fact, workers over the age of 60 accounted for 25% of fatal injuries, even though this group accounts for merely 10% of the workforce.

Though not classed as workplace fatalities, 92 members of the public were fatally injured in accidents connected to workplace activities, with roughly a third of those occurring on railways.