Lowest year on record
The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020. This is a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers and, most importantly, the lowest year on record. This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year. Coronavirus impact is likely to have accentuated this fall on the economy in the final two months of the year.
In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.
There has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities. The number has almost halved in the last 20 years. Aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.
Spread across industrial sectors
The new figures show the spread of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:
- 40 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 for the past five years is 37. 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. 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.
- 5 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.
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). These account for 60 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20.
The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers. 27 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20 were to workers aged 60 or over. Even though such workers make up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.
Members of the public killed
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 these occurred in the Health and Social work sector. A further 41 occurred on railways (enforced by the Office for Road and Rail).
Mesothelioma, which is contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, killed 2446 in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average 2550 over the previous five years.
The current figures are largely a consequence of occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before 1980. Consequently the annual mesothelioma deaths are expected to fall below current levels for years beyond 2020.