HSE releases 2019/20 workplace fatality figures
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just released its annual figures for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, as well as the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2018.
According to the figures, 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020. This is the lowest year on record and the number of deaths has fallen by 38 from last year’s total. It is likely that one of the main factors in this drop was the effect of COVID-19 on the economy in February and March this year.
The number of annual fatalities has been in a long-term decline and is now about half what it was twenty years ago.
Because these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease, COVID-19 infection is not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in the future.
Where are the deaths happening?
The new figures show the incidence of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:
40 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded, accounting for the largest share. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around 4 times as high as the all industry rate.
20 fatal injuries to agricultural, forestry and fishing workers were recorded, the lowest level on record. Nevertheless, 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.
5 fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. The annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
The most common causes
Falls from height, being struck by a moving vehicle or being hit by a moving object are still the most common causes of fatal injuries. Together, these three categories make up 60% of all the fatalities in 2019/20.
Older workers at risk
The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers: 27% of fatal injuries in 2019/20 were to workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers make up only around 10% of the workforce.
Members of the public affected
In addition, members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-connected accidents. In 2019/20, 51 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces (33 of which occurred in the Health and Social work sector) and a further 41 occurred on railways.
This is contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly. It killed 2,446 in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average 2,550 over the previous five years.
The current figures arise largely from occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before 1980. Mesothelioma deaths are expected to fall below current levels for years beyond 2020.
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