The latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have revealed a concerning rise in work-related deaths in the UK. The data, covering the period from April 2022 to March 2023, reveals that 135 workers lost their lives in work-related incidents, an increase of nearly 10% compared to the previous year.
And the names published alongside HSE data remind us that each case is an individual who left for work but never returned home.
One of the most significant findings is the increase in falls from height. In 2022/23, 40 workers lost their lives due to falls, an increase of 11 deaths compared to 2021/22 and 5 deaths more than the 5-year average. Falls continue to be the most common cause of workplace fatality, highlighting the urgent need for employers to issue appropriate PPE and comprehensive training for employees working at height.
The industries with the highest number of deaths were construction (45) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (21), with these two sectors combined accounting for nearly half (49%) of all workplace fatalities.
The number of fatalities in construction was an increase of 16 from the previous year’s total of 29, though the five-year average in this sector is 37. Similarly in manufacturing, this year’s statistics revealed a decrease of 7, from 22 to 15. However, the five-year average for fatal injuries in this sector is 19, showing no significant progress has been made. This lack of substantial improvement over the past 5 years highlights the ongoing need for continuous safety improvements across these industries.
The report has also prompted calls for improving health and safety standards in British workplaces from organisations such as the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Policy at IOSH, said:
“It is time for the government, policymakers, and businesses to recognise the importance of good health and safety. They need to take action to prevent harm, implement holistic prevention strategy approaches and ensure that all work is safe and healthy.”
So although the UK Government and the HSE refer to Great Britain as one of the safest places in the world to work, the recent increase in work-related deaths has revealed areas that still need to be addressed. While the long-term trend suggests a decline in fatal injuries, it is crucial to continually prioritise the health and safety of workers and strive for continuous improvement across all industries.