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Construction accounts for a quarter of worker fatalities in latest HSE report

9 July 2021
worker deaths 2021

A quarter of all the people who die at work are in the construction industry, says this year's report from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

There were 142 people killed at work in Great Britain in the year to March 2021, 29 more than the year before, with construction the largest single contributor to that toll. 

The number of fatal injuries in construction was 39, three fewer than in the year to March 2020 but above the five-year average of 36.

Of course, construction employs a lot of people and the death rate (per 100,000 employees) is higher in agriculture, forestry & fishing and waste & recycling.

The rate of deaths in construction in the year to March 2021 was 1.84 per 100,000 employees compared with a five-year average of 1.6. In agriculture, forestry & fishing it was 11.37 compared with a five-year average of 8.44. And in waste & recycling it was 2.57 compared with 7.02.

It should be noted that 11.5million jobs were supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) at various times over the year. This is reflected in the total number of hours worked in the UK, which fell from 1,029million in February 2020 to a low of 841million in May (a fall of almost 20%). By March this year it was back up to 975million, still 6% down on February 2020. Fewer hours worked might be expected to result in fewer deaths, although Covid-19 might have made working conditions more difficult for some, increasing the likelihood of an accident. Such considerations make comparison of data from the year with other years subject to some caveats.

There were also 60 members of the public killed in work-related incidents. This is significantly lower than in previous years, presumably reflecting the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Although people die at work each year, the UK is one of safest places in the world to work. Data from Eurostat shows the UK’s mortality at work rate is better than most EU countries. The most recent data are from 2018, showing the 0.61 fatalities per 100,000 employees in Britain compared favourably with most large economies (France, Italy, Spain, Poland). The best performer was Germany with a rate of 0.55 deaths per 100,000 employees.

The figures come from a report, Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain 2021, published this month (July) by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). The full report can be downloaded from https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/pdf/fatalinjuries.pdf

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