More deaths in construction

Britain is safe and getting safer as a place to work, although there were two more deaths in the past year than the year before.

Construction work still kills more people than any other industry sector, according to provisional figures published on 6 July by the Health & Safety Executive.

However, that is largely because it employs so many people. The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 workers) is considerably lower than for agriculture and waste & recycling.

Construction accounted for 43 of the 144 deaths at work in the year – that's about 30%. That was up from 35 deaths the previous year. The industry also killed two members of the public. The year before it killed three.

The death rate in construction rose from 1.63 per 100,000 workers in 2014-15 to 1.94, but that is below the five-year average of 2.04. In agriculture the five-year average death rate is 9.4 and in waste and recycling 5.59.

The long term trend of workplace deaths across the board is down – it has more than halved over the past 20 years. However, these provisional figures show a slight increase (two) in workplace deaths in 2015-16 compared with the previous 12 months.

But everything provides a lesson and the Health & Safety Executive has called on all sectors to learn from their mistakes.

Martin Temple, HSE Chair, says: “One death at work, or life needlessly shortened, is one too many and behind every statistic lies a real story of loss and heartbreak and families left to grieve.

“Britain has one of the best health & safety systems in the world, but we should always be looking to improve and to prevent incidents that cost lives.

“This year HSE travelled the country asking industry representatives, employers, unions, workers and others what they could do to help GB work well. The response was hugely encouraging and I would like to ask people to deliver on the commitments made, that will help keep Britain’s workers alive.”

There were also 103 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2015/16, of which 36 (35%) related to incidents occurring on railways.

The statistics again confirm the UK is one of the safest places to work in Europe (and probably the world). In Europe, its death rate at work is second only to Malta.

HSE has also released the latest available figures on deaths from asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma, one of the few work related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2,515 in Great Britain in 2014 compared with 2,556 in 2013.

A more detailed assessment of the data will be provided as part of the annual Health & Safety Statistics pubished in early November. That draws on HSE’s full range of sources, including changes in non-fatal injuries and health trends, and will provide a richer picture on trends.