Construction fatalities 70% worse than five years ago

Construction worker fatalities in the UK are 70 per cent higher than before the Covid pandemic, according to the latest annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Data for the year to 31 March 2024 showed that 51 construction workers died in accidents – 37 per cent of all the industries surveyed.

Across all industries, the number of annual workplace deaths “remains broadly in line with pre-pandemic levels”, the HSE said.

But for construction, the latest figure was 70 per cent higher than HSE’s data for 2018/19 – the last full year before Covid hit.

“While the number of fatalities fluctuates year-on-year, the average number of worker deaths in construction in the latest two years is statistically significantly higher than the pre-pandemic period,” the HSE said.

The tally for construction in 2023/24 was more than double the second-worst-affected industry – agriculture, forestry and mining, with 23 fatalities.

It also exceeded the five-year annual average of 42 fatal injuries for construction workers.

The HSE data covers fatalities resulting from work-related accidents in 2023/24 that were reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

Falls from height accounted for 50 deaths across all industries, up from 41 in 2022/23.

“The 2023/24 figure for fatal falls from height now sits at an unacceptable 35 per cent above the five-year average of 37,” the Access Industry Forum (AIF) said in a statement.

The statistics were published days after Construction News revealed there has been a sharp drop in the number of HSE investigations into falls from height.

The HSE data also showed that the rate of fatal injury in construction was five times higher than the all-industry average.

“Despite a decrease in the overall number of injuries, it is worrying to see that the number of fatal injuries in the [construction] sector has increased compared to the previous year,” said Martin Usher, head of serious injury at Lime Solicitors.

“This highlights the urgent need for enhanced safety measures and stricter enforcement of regulations to protect the lives of workers in this high-risk sector,” he added.

“With a new government imminently in place, our leaders must take urgent action to improve protections for all those in the construction sector, and ensure that workers’ safety is put first.”

AIF chair Peter Bennett called for a simplified system of reporting workplace accidents, particularly falls from height.

“The latest HSE fatal injury figures paint an overwhelmingly bleak picture,” he said.

“It’s clear something isn’t working. Most falls from height are avoidable, but only if we can understand what’s causing them in the first place.”

Bennett said that current reporting processes focus on the type of incident as opposed to its cause.

“This needs to change if we are to tackle the worsening issue of workers being killed, and the number of people who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height.”

Julie Riggs, director of education and membership at the British Safety Council, said the rise in work-related fatalities in the latest HSE report “serves as a stark reminder that we cannot become complacent about the health and safety of workers.

“Put simply, the consequences of poor health and safety are too great a price to pay.”

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