The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published provisional statistics for fatal workplace injuries in Britain for the year 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. Over the last 20 years there has been a downward trend in the rate of fatal injuries to workers, although it has showed signs of levelling off in recent years.

The total number of deaths was 137, a fatal injury rate of 0.43 per 100,000 workers. This compares with 147 deaths in the year to March 2016 and an average annual number of workers killed over the five years 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 of 142. Whilst the latest figure represents a reduction of 10 fatalities from 2015/2016 and is the second lowest on record after 2013/2014, the HSE points out that it is possible that this change can be explained by natural variation in the figures, and in statistical terms the number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years.

The figures show the fatal injury rates in several of the key industrial sectors:

  • 30 fatal injuries to workers in the construction industry were recorded, compared with 47 in the previous year. The number tends to fluctuate year on year and the annual average for the years 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 is 39. The average rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers over the past five years is around four times as high as the all industry fatality rate;
  • 27 fatal injuries to workers in agriculture were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 of 29. The average rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers over the past five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry fatality rate;
  • 14 fatal injuries to workers in waste and recycling were recorded, compared with six deaths in the previous year. The latest figure includes five deaths in a single incident. The average rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers over the past five years is around 15 times as high as the all industry fatality rate;
  • 19 fatal injuries to workers in manufacturing were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 of 20. The average rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers over the past five years is around twice as high as the all industry fatality rate;
  • 14 fatal injuries to workers in the transportation and storage industries were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2012/2013 to 2016/2017 of 12. The average rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers over the past five years is also around twice as high as the all industry fatality rate.

The figures also show that in 2016/2017, 133 (97 per cent) of all worker fatalities were male workers, a similar proportion to earlier years, and that around a quarter of the fatal injuries that occurred were to workers aged 60 or over, even though this age group make up only approximately 10 per cent of the workforce.

The statistics also show that 35 members of the public were killed owing to work-related activities in 2016/2017, excluding deaths on railways and in the health and social care sector. This compares with 45 deaths in the year 2015/2016.

The 2016/2017 figures are provisional. They will be finalised in July 2018 following any necessary adjustments arising from further investigations and coroners’ rulings, during which new facts can emerge about whether or not an accident was work-related.

Based on the latest available data (from 2014), Britain continues to have the lowest rate of fatal injuries to workers compared with other leading industrial nations in Europe, which include Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland.

The HSE has also released the latest available figures for deaths from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs which is normally caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres. In 2015, 2,542 people died from mesothelioma compared with 2,519 in 2014. More than 2,500 people also died from the disease in each of the years 2012 and 2013. These figures reflect exposure to asbestos that occurred before 1980 and it is predicted that the number of annual deaths will reduce after the current decade.

Further details of the statistics can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/pdf/fatalinjuries.pdf.




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