The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published provisional statistics for fatal workplace injuries in Britain for the year 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.
A total of 147 workers were killed at work in Great Britain (GB) in 2018/2019. Although this compares with a figure of 141 fatalities in 2017/2018, the HSE points out that it is possible that the change can be explained by natural variation in the figures. The number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years, with an average of 142 workers per annum killed at work over the five years 2014/2015-2018/2019.
The figures show the fatal injury rates in several key industrial sectors:
- 30 fatal injuries to workers in the construction industry were recorded, the lowest number on record. The numbers are prone to year-on-year fluctuations and the annual average for the years 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 was 36. The rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018/2019 was 1.31, which compares with an annual average over the past five years of 1.61;
- 32 fatal injuries to workers in agriculture, forestry and fishing were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 of 29. The rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018/2019 was 9.21, which compares with an annual average over the past five years of 8.29;
- Seven fatal injuries to workers in waste and recycling were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 of nine. Agriculture, forestry and fishing and waste and recycling had the worst annual average rates of fatal injuries per 100,000 workers over the last five years, with a rate some 18 times and 17 times as high as the average across all industries respectively;
- 26 fatal injuries to workers in manufacturing were recorded, compared with a figure of 15 in 2017/2018. The annual average for the years 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 was 21. The rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018/2019 was 0.92, which compares with an annual average over the past five years of 0.73;
- 16 fatal injuries to workers in the transportation and storage industries were recorded, compared with an annual average for the years 2014/2015 to 2018/2019 of 15. The rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018/2019 was 1.0, compared with an annual average over the past five years of 0.96.
The figures also show that in 2018/2019 139 (95 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 makes up only approximately 10 per cent of the workforce.
The statistics also show that 92 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-related accident in 2018/2019. Of these deaths, about a third (32) occurred on railways and a further 23 occurred in the health and social work sector. Changes to the reporting requirements make year-on-year comparisons difficult, but the annual figure has always tended to fluctuate with no clear trend.
The 2018/2019 figures are currently provisional and will be finalised in July 2020 to take account of any necessary adjustments.
Based on the latest available data (from 2016), GB continues to have one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers compared with other leading industrial nations in Europe, which include Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland.
The fatal injury statistics presented in the HSE annual report exclude deaths from occupational diseases, which typically occur many years after first exposure to the causative agent. Mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs that is normally caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres, is one of the few examples where deaths due to an occupational disease can be counted directly. There were 2,523 such deaths in GB in 2017. The figures for mesothelioma deaths in recent years reflect exposure to asbestos that occurred before 1980 and it is predicted that the number of annual deaths will start to reduce in the next few years, reflecting improvements in control of exposure for those working with the harmful substance.