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UK fatality rate still on plateau, says HSE

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) newly published statistics on workplace fatalities reveal that 144 people were killed at work in the 12 months to the end of March 2016. This corresponds to a rate of 0.46 deaths per 100,000 workers and is level with the rate for 2014-15 when 142 died.


This latest fatal injury rate is 7% lower than the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average rate of 0.52 per 100,000 workers (155 deaths).

These figures indicate that the downward trend of workplace deaths – which has more than halved over the last 20 years – is levelling off, the HSE said.

The 2015-16 statistics, which cover the 12 months from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, are provisional and will be finalised in July next year. This means that the figure of 144 could change.

The fatal injury rate of 1.94 per 100,000 workers in the construction sector in 2015-16 is lower than the five-year average of 2.04. Forty-three construction workers died last year, a rise on last year’s total of 35 and the same as the average for the previous five years. This figure includes one person who was killed during the collapse of Didcot Power Station in February, but does not take into account the three whose bodies have not yet been recovered. Statisticians refer to the rate of accidents rather than the absolute total because it smooths out the effect of variations in numbers employed in the economy year to year.

The manufacturing industry, however, has seen a significant increase in the number of workplace deaths. There were 27 fatalities last year, 23% higher than the five-year average of 22. The latest rate is 0.92, compared with an average rate of 0.79 over the previous five years. Eight of those fatalities were caused by three incidents, two of which led to two deaths each. The third, an explosion at the Wood Treatment plant in Bosley, Cheshire on 17 July 2015, killed four workers.  

There were also 27 fatalities in agriculture, though this is lower than the five-year average of 32. The rate for 2015-16 is 7.73, compared to the five-year average rate of 9.40. 

There were some 5.71 deaths per 100,000 working in waste and recycling last year, up from the five year annual average of 5.59. A total of six workers were killed in this sector during the 2015-16 period, compared to the five-year average of seven.

In addition to the 144 workplace deaths in 2015-16, 103 members of the public were also fatally injured in accidents connected to work. Thirty-six (35%) of those related occurred on railways.

Commenting on the fatality figures, IOSH president Dr Karen McDonnell said: “Britain is renowned the world over for its health and safety systems. The release of these figures, however, is a timely reminder of the need to continue to improve working conditions, both in Britain and across the world.” Click here for IOSH’s response in full. 

Martin Temple, chair of the HSE, said: “Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but we should always be looking to improve and to prevent incidents that cost lives. 

“This year HSE travelled the country asking industry representatives, employers, unions, workers and others what they could do to help GB work well. The response was hugely encouraging and I would like to ask people to deliver on the commitments made, that will help keep Britain’s workers alive.”  

The executive has also released the latest available figures on deaths from asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma, one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2,515 people in Great Britain in 2014 compared with 2,556 in 2013.



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Keeley Downey was the former assistant editor of IOSH Magazine. Previously she was editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine


  • To say that we have plateaued

    Permalink Submitted by Martin Adlem on 13 July 2016 - 06:55 pm

    To say that we have plateaued because two years are the same is not good statistics. It is lower than the five year average so must be lower than most years in that period. In the 90's and 00's we had a definite plateau with a number of years similar for over a decade. This is scare mongering.


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