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Rise in workplace deaths shows 'lessons aren’t being learned'

07 July 2024

THE GLOBAL body for health and safety professionals says “lessons aren’t being learned” after it was revealed one worker is killed every week in the UK construction industry.

New figures published show that 51 deaths occurred in construction in 2023-24, an increase of four from the previous year. This means that the industry accounted for more than a third of the 138 deaths across all UK workplaces.

While there were more deaths in construction than other industries, the highest proportion of deaths occurred in agriculture, forestry and fishing, with 7.51 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared with 2.43 in construction.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says the figures, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), are of “huge concern” and is calling for a joint effort to reduce the number of workplace deaths, with the annual number remaining broadly similar for over a decade.

Ruth Wilkinson, IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs said, “There has been a rise in fatalities in construction, meaning the number of deaths in that industry is significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. There has also been a rise in the total number of workplace fatalities so it’s clear that lessons aren’t being learned and that much more still needs to be done to protect workers.

“This is a huge concern, and we need to see action taken to tackle this. The new Government must seek to protect and enhance health and safety standards, particularly across high-risk industries like construction. And businesses need to step up and ensure they have robust occupational health and safety management systems and control strategies in place to prevent accidents at work and reduce the chance of them happening.

“Providing a safe and healthy working environment isn’t just an add-on for a business. It is now a fundamental principle and right at work, as recognised by the International Labour Organization. So, we need to see a joined-up approach to tackle harm at work to prevent more lives being needlessly lost.”

The total figure of work fatalities in 2023-24 was an increase of two from the previous year. The figure has fluctuated between 130 and 150 for most of the past decade. 

The most common fatal accident last year was falls from height, which accounted for 50 of the 138 deaths, while 45 involved a worker being struck by a moving vehicle or object. Workers aged 60 or over accounted for 34 per cent of those killed, despite them making up only 11 per cent of the workforce.

On the same day as publishing the fatality figures, the HSE also revealed the latest data around mesothelioma deaths in the UK. They showed that in 2022, 2,257 people died from the asbestos-related cancer, slightly lower than the 2,290 who died in 2021.

IOSH has previously called for more action to tackle the issue of asbestos-related diseases both in the UK and globally.

 
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