UK Workplace fatality figures released for 2019/20
Sheila Pantry OBE
The construction sector has had the highest number of workplace fatalities over the last 12 months, with falling from height still recorded as the most common cause of work-related death. The latest HSE figures also highlight the risks to older workers, with 27% of fatal injuries occurring to workers aged over 60.
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20. The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record.
The data represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year.
In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. COVID-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years. HSE says separate data about deaths associated with COVID-19 will be available at a later date. While there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the last 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.
Following the release, HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, said: “No one should be hurt or killed by the work they do. In these extraordinary times, we have seen many workers risking their lives to help others during the coronavirus outbreak. Although these statistics are not a reflection on COVID-19 related loss of life, it is a pertinent time to reflect.
“Every workplace fatality is a tragedy and while we are encouraged by this improvement, today’s statistics is a reminder that we cannot become complacent as we look to continue to work together to make Great Britain an even safer place to live and work.”
Workplace fatality figures by sector how the spread of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:
- Construction accounted for the largest share, with 40 fatal injuries to workers recorded. However, over the last five years the number has fluctuated, with the annual average figure being 37, which is around four times as high as the all industry rate.
- Agricultural, forestry and fishing
- 20 fatal injuries to agricultural, forestry and fishing workers were recorded, the lowest level on record. Despite this fall, this sector continues to account for a large share of the annual fatality count. It has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
- Waste and recycling
- Five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
Sarah Albon continued: “These statistics remind us that in certain sectors of the economy, fatal injury in the workplace remains worryingly high. Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for a small fraction of the workforce of Great Britain, yet accounted for around 20% of worker fatalities in the last year. This is unacceptable and more must be done to prevent such fatalities taking place.
“Work-related deaths fracture families, they shatter communities, and so many of them can be avoided. The work that HSE does is about more than numbers, we are continually working with duty holders to ensure that they assess and appropriately manage risk to their employees. These efforts are a vital part of keeping essential services going, particularly as duty holders adapt to the current circumstances.”
Workplace fatality figures by cause – The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be:
- Falling from height (29)
- Struck by a moving vehicle (20)
- Struck by a moving object (18)
These three causes account for 60% of the workplace fatality figures in 2019/20.
The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers; 27% of fatal injuries in 2019/20 were to workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers make up only around 10% of the workforce.
In addition, members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-connected accidents. In 2019/20, 51 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces and a further 41 occurred on railways (enforced by the Office for Road and Rail). Typically, in recent years the number of such deaths has ranged between 12 and 16 deaths annually.
- Mesothelioma deaths
- Mesothelioma, which is contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, killed 2,446 in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average 2,550 over the previous five years.
- The current figures are largely a consequence of occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before 1980. Annual mesothelioma deaths are expected to fall below current levels for years beyond 2020.
More information: https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatals.htm
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