The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published provisional statistics for fatal workplace injuries in Great Britain for the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.
A total of 111 workers were fatally injured at work in Great Britain in 2019/2020, a decrease of 38 deaths from the previous year. Whilst this represents the lowest number of fatalities on record, the HSE points out that the fall is likely to have been accentuated by the impact of COVID-19 on the economy in the final two months of the year.
In accordance with previous years’ statistics, the latest figures exclude deaths from occupational disease, meaning COVID-19 infection is not recorded. Separate data regarding deaths associated with COVID-19 will be made available at a later date.
In statistical terms, aside from the current fall, the number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years.
The figures illustrate fatal injury rates in several key industrial sectors, as follows:
- Forty fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded, accounting for the largest share. However, over the last five years the number has fluctuated, the annual average being 37. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around four times as high as the all-industry rate;
- Twenty 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;
- 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.
According to the HSE figures, the three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be workers falling from height (29), being struck by a moving vehicle (20) and being struck by a moving object (18), accounting for 60 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/2020.
Members of the public continue to be killed as a consequence of work-related accidents. In 2019/2020 51 members of the public were killed in HSE-enforced workplaces – 33 as a result of accidents that occurred in the health and social work sector. A further 41 deaths occurred on railways.
The asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs which 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. Mesothelioma killed 2,446 people in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average of 2,550 over the previous five years.
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.
Further details of the statistics can be found on the HSE's website.