The UK has one of the best workplace safety records in Europe, according to the latest Workplace Fatal Injuries report from the Health and Safety Executive.
Eurostat, the statistical authority for the European Union has, from 1990, worked with member states to create a reporting structure that gives consistency to workplace injury statistics across the EU.
These figures show that year on year, the UK has consistently had one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU. In fact, between 2013 and 2015, the UK had the lowest number of workplace fatalities across the entire EU.
During 2016 the figures changed slightly so that the UK was now level with Sweden, but compared favourably with other large economies such as Germany, France and Italy.
Long term trends in the UK
Other good news is that there has been a long-term downward trend in the number of people killed at work in the UK.
In 1981, the number of reported fatalities stood at 495. By 1998/99 the number had almost halved with 253 deaths reported. From 2013/14 the number has remained fairly static, but was down to 147 deaths during 2018/19.
Fatalities by industry
The number of fatal injuries in the construction sector is also at a record low. However, the number of fatal injuries in the manufacturing sector has increased. Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, as a sector, is now the industry recording the highest number of fatalities. This is closely followed by the waste and recycling industry. Together, these industries average between 17-18 times more injuries than any other industry.
Mining and quarrying is broadly similar to construction, running at around four times the average rate across all other industries.
Age related deaths
In 2018-19, 25% of all fatalities involved workers aged 60 and over. The rate of fatal injury increases with age. Workers between 60 and 64 years are twice as likely to be fatally injured, while workers over 65 years are more than four times as likely to suffer such an injury.
Falls from height remain the biggest workplace killer, closely followed by being struck by a moving vehicle; both of which have increased over the past few years.
Over 25% of fatal injuries in the last 5 year period have been to self-employed workers, mainly in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and construction.
While in agriculture, forestry and fishing, self-employed workers are twice as likely to suffer a fatal injury as a paid employee.
Scope of reporting
These fatal accidents statistics only include those reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). They do not include: workers travelling on a public highway; travelling by air or sea; members of the armed forces or those who die due to natural causes (unless a heart attack or stroke has been brought on by accident related trauma), all of which are reported to the relevant reporting bodies.
There are no figures available for comparison pre 1981 as fatal injury numbers were reported to the relevant enforcing authorities up until then.
Diane Parker, specialist personal injury solicitor commented on the findings: “The report makes good reading; the downward trend is a testament to the work the HSE put in to making our workplaces as safe as possible.
As solicitors working with bereaved families, we know only too well that it’s the flagrant breaches in health and safety and the corner cutting that result in workplace fatalities. Health and safety regulations are there for a reason – the more people adhere to them, the quicker the numbers will fall.”