Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Workplace fatalities data highlights employers’ health and safety duties

Out-Law News | 13 Jul 2022 | 2:28 pm | 2 min. read

The latest data on workplace fatalities in Britain should sharpen the focus of employers on ensuring their workplaces are safe environments for both workers and members of the public, a health and safety expert has said.

Kevin Bridges of Pinsent Masons was commenting after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published annual figures on workplace fatalities for year 2021/22. The figures record work-related accidents and do not include deaths arising from occupational diseases or diseases arising from certain occupational exposures – including Covid-19. The figures also do not include work-related suicides – there have been increasing calls for this to change, however, from mental health campaigners.

According to the HSE, 123 workers died in work-related accidents in the year to the end of March 2022. A further 80 members of the public were also killed in a work-related accident in that period.

Bridges said: “An employers’ duty is to protect not only their employees but others who may be affected by their work, including members of the public. The good news is that this year’s figures for members of the public killed in a work-related accident are significantly down when compared with the five-year average.”

“However, all businesses should know that the HSE will use the annual figures on workplace fatalities to inform their health and safety inspections. In its recent 10-year strategy, the regulator confirmed that it remains its aim to ensure those in control take responsibility and are held to account,” he said.

Bridges Kevin

Kevin Bridges

Partner, Head of Health and Safety

The HSE will use the annual figures on workplace fatalities to inform their health and safety inspections. It remains its aim to ensure those in control take responsibility and are held to account

Of the 123 fatal injuries to workers, most involved either a fall from height (29), being struck by a moving vehicle (23), or being struck by a moving object (18). There were 30 deaths in the construction sector, 22 across agriculture, forestry and fishing, and 22 in manufacturing.

Bridges said: “Although the number of fatalities is down on the previous year, the numbers then were almost certainly affected by pandemic restrictions and so the real picture appears to be that things are largely as pre pandemic, although some slight improvements on the five-year pre pandemic average are seen in most sectors, and particularly in construction, which will be welcome news. Figures for the transportation and storage sector, however, show a slight increase.”

“There has been an elevated rate of fatal injury over the last five years in the waste and recycling sector compared to the average across all industries: 11 times as high. However, with just one worker death in the sector in 2021-22 the rate for this year alone is markedly lower than the average rate for the sector across the five-year period,” he said.

Bridges said data the HSE has published confirming that older workers are disproportionately impacted by fatal injuries is something that employers should factor into their health and safety risk assessments.

“Workers over 60 account for 24% of fatal injuries even though that demographic only accounts for just over 11% of the overall workforce – employers should view this as a reminder that their risk assessments, and crucially the associated mitigations they put in place, must take into account the make-up of their particular workforce, and ensure that age is not ignored in their considerations,” he said.

HSE chief executive Sarah Albon said: “While Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, today’s figures show we must continue to ensure safety remains a priority. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we are committed to making workplaces safer and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.”