Official data for work-related fatal accidents reveals 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 toll on record.
This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, although it is likely that this decrease was accentuated by the effects 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 an occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.
The annual figures were released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, as well as the number of people known to have died from mesothelioma, the asbestos-related cancer, in 2018.
Although there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the past 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.
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 2446 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.
A fuller assessment of work-related ill-health and injuries, drawing on HSE’s full range of data sources, will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release on 4 November.
The new figures show the spread of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:
- 40 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded, accounting for the largest share. However, over the past five years the number has fluctuated. The annual average for the past five years is 37. The annual average rate over the past five years in construction is around four times as high as the all-industry rate.
- 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.
- 5 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 past five years is around 18 times as high as the all-industry rate.
The 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.”
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