The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 144 UK employees were fatally injured in 2017/18, a rate of 0.45 per 100,000 workers, up from 135 workers the previous year.
Of these 144 deaths, a third involved self-employed people, working in areas such as construction and agriculture.
HSE Chair Martin Temple commented on the statistics. “Despite the fact that Britain’s health and safety record is the envy of much of the world, the increase in the number of workers fatally injured is clearly a source of concern…the figures serve as a reminder of why health and safety is so important and that we must not become complacent as we continue on our mission to prevent all forms of injury, death and ill health at work.”
Injuries occur at different rates across industries. The highest number of fatalities occurred among construction workers, with a total of 38. The rate for workers in this industry is approximately four times as high as in any other sector.
Further to this, there were 29 fatal injuries among agricultural workers in the UK. Waste and recycling workers were also at risk, and a total of 15 fatal injuries were recorded in both the manufacturing and the transport and storage industries.
The HSE also reported that 40 per cent of deaths involved workers aged 60 or over in 2017/18, even though these older workers only make up 10 per cent of the total workforce.
Fatal injuries most often occur when workers fall from a height, are struck by a moving vehicle, or are hit by a moving object.
The report also mentioned Mesothelioma, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. In the UK, 2,595 people died in 2016 after past exposure to asbestos while at work. Current figures relate to incidences of asbestos exposure that occurred before 1980. Annual deaths are thus expected to continue to decline.
The president of IOSH, Craig Foyle, responded to the recent figures by urging people to make occupational health and safety a priority. “Last year, nearly three people were killed at work every week and these deaths are entirely preventable. That is unacceptable. And let’s not forget those who are seriously injured at work as well. When you take into account the emotional and financial implications on families, the impact of workplace accidents is huge and today serves as a stark reminder of that.
“We need to continue to find new ways to protect working people. Nobody should have their life cut short by work.”
A more detailed assessment of work-related injuries and health conditions will be published this year by HSE as part of the Health and Safety Statistics release on 31st October.