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Out-Law News 2 min. read

Workplace fatalities rise in the UK

Construction companies have been urged to review their health and safety policies after new data showed most workplace fatalities in the UK occur in the sector.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 138 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2023/24, with 51 other those fatalities reported in construction. There were 136 fatal injuries in the workplace in 2022/23 – 47 of which were in construction.

Kevin Bridges, an expert in health and safety law at Pinsent Masons, said: “While the number of fatalities fluctuates year-on-year, the average number of worker deaths in construction in the latest two years is statistically significantly higher than the pre-pandemic period. This will not go unnoticed by the HSE.”

Of the other cases, 23 were recorded in agriculture, forestry and fishing; 16 in manufacturing; and 12 in admin and support services. There were a further 11 workplace fatalities in the transportation and storage industry; nine across wholesale, retail, motor repair, accommodation and food industries; and four in waste and recycling. A further 12 cases were also recorded across other industries.

The three most common cases of fatal injury in the workplace involve falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle, and being struck by a moving object. Together, incidents of those kinds accounted for more than two-thirds of workplace fatalities in the UK in the last reporting year.

Bridges said: “At 50 deaths last year, falling from height remains the most prevalent cause of fatal accidents – 50 such cases is a significant increase from last year’s figure of 37, which will also be a concern for the HSE.”

Workers aged 60 or over accounted for 34% of those killed, despite them making up only 11% of the workforce. The statistics show that the rate of fatal injury increases with age, with workers aged 60-64 having a rate around twice the all-ages rate, and workers aged 65 and over a rate that is four times as high as the all-ages rate. Male workers accounted for 95% of all fatalities at work in 2023/24.

The data published by the HSE also showed a significant rise in the number of members of the public killed in work-related accidents in 2023/2024 – there were 87 cases of this kind, up from 73 in 2022/23.

Ruth Wilkinson, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said: “There has been a rise in fatalities in construction, meaning the number of deaths in that industry is significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. There has also been a rise in the total number of workplace fatalities so it’s clear that lessons aren’t being learned and that much more still needs to be done to protect workers…”

“This is a huge concern, and we need to see action taken to tackle this… The new government must seek to protect and enhance health and safety standards, particularly across high-risk industries like construction. And businesses need to step up and ensure they have robust occupational health and safety management systems and control strategies in place to prevent accidents at work and reduce the chance of them happening,” she said.

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