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HSE announces annual workplace fatality figures for 2018/19

Posted on 31st Jul, 2019 | By Lorretta Tatham

As the UK’s leading authority on workplace health, safety and welfare, the Health and Safety Executive releases annual statistics detailing the national record on workplace deaths and accidents. Earlier this month, the figures for the 2018/19 year were officially published. They make especially worthwhile reading for employers such as directors and operations managers, as well as employees themselves. So, what’s contained in the current report, and what can we learn from the ongoing trends?

Fatalities are decreasing, but there’s still some way to go

A total of 147 people were fatally injured at work between March 2018 and March 2019, which is equivalent to about 1 person for every 220,000 people. It continues the trend of a long-term reduction in the number of fatalities since 1981, and despite a marginal increase in the number of workplace fatalities from 2017/18, this number has remained especially steady in the last few years.

However, HSE Martin Temple still views the current figure as “unacceptable”, saying that “we should remember that any change in numbers provides little comfort to the family, friends and colleagues of the 147 whose lives were cut short this year while doing their job.”

Agriculture, waste disposal and construction are still the most dangerous industries

According to the latest HSE statistics, agriculture, forest and fishing, as well as various construction sectors, all account for the latest share of fatal injuries, with 32 and 30 deaths respectively. In fact, agriculture and waste disposal sectors remain amongst the most dangerous industries; their rate of fatal injury is, on average, 18 times higher than those of other sectors.

What’s more, as Mr Temple points out, agriculture accounts for a relatively small fraction of Britain’s workforce, but more than 1 in 5 fatal workplace injuries – demonstrating that there’s still considerable work to be done in improving safety records in this sector.

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What else do the statistics tell us?

The most common causes of workplace deaths remain broadly the same as in previous years. These include:

  • Falls from height: 40 deaths
  • Struck by moving vehicle: 30 deaths
  • Struck by moving object: 16 deaths

In total, these causes amount for nearly 60% of the total fatalities. What’s more, the report also notes the steady risk to older workers. Around 25% of fatal injuries for the current year were to employees aged 60 or above, despite the fact that they only made up about 10% of Britain’s total workforce.

Finally, HSE reports that mesothelioma (a disease caused by asbestos exposure) was responsible for 2523 deaths in 2017. This number is broadly similar to expectations from previous years. While asbestos used to be a common material used in the construction of buildings, it was abruptly phased out in 1980 after it was discovered that the long, flexible fibres could become lodged in human lungs, leading to the fatal onset of mesothelioma. Therefore, the mesothelioma from 2017 are largely the results of historical exposure. These numbers are expected to stay broadly level until the end of the decade, at which point they should experience a sharp decrease.

How can you protect your own employees?

There are often a number of factors in play in any given workplace accident, but having the appropriate equipment (in good condition) and the right training can go a long way to drastically reducing their likelihood. Defective ladders are often associated with falls from height, which means that regular bi-annual ladder inspections should be a high priority on any employer’s list. If the ladders are used on a particularly frequent basis, our recommendation is that this inspection period is reduced to once every three months.

Meanwhile, our Asbestos Awareness Training Course can help get employees up to speed on the dangers of asbestos, its impacts on human health, and details on how to mitigate the risks of exposure. You can book your own places on this course by giving us a call on 01282 615517, or clicking either of the links above.


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