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Published 9 July 2019
The HSE has published its (provisional) annual figures for work related fatalities for 2018/19. The fatality figures included are those that have been reported under RIDDOR to the HSE, Local Authorities or the Office of Rail and Road. The finalised work related fatality figures will be published in Autumn 2019. It should be noted that the fatality figures do not include patient and service user deaths for premises registered with the Care Quality Commission.
The data analysed shows that between April 2018 and March 2019, 147 workers were fatally injured at work. This is an increase of six from 2017/18 albeit the HSE explains that, in statistical terms, the number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years with the average annual number of fatalities between 2014/15 -2018/19 being 142.
Of the 147 workers killed in 2018/19, 106 were employees and 41 were self-employed compared with 97 employees and 44 self-employed persons in 2017/18.
What is clear from the figures is that the Construction and Agriculture industry sectors still account for the largest number of fatalities, with 30 (down from 37 last year) and 32 (an increase of three from last year) deaths recorded respectively, albeit the number of fatalities recorded in the Construction industry is the lowest number on record.
There were 26 fatalities in the Manufacturing sector, which is an increase of 11 deaths from the previous year.
The figures also show that the risk of injury is greatest in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector and the Waste and Recycling sector with a rate of injury some 18 and 17 times as high as the average across all of the industry sectors (when considered against the annual averages for 2014/15 – 2018/19).
Just five different types of accident resulted in around three quarters of the total fatal injuries for 2018/19:
Falls from height continue to be the major cause of fatalities whilst at work and that combined with being struck by a moving vehicle and struck by a moving object has accounted for over half of all fatal injuries each year since 2001/02.
95% (139) of all worker fatalities in 2018/19 were male.
Interestingly 25% (37) of the fatal injuries were to workers aged 60 or over, even though they made up around 10% of the workforce. Workers aged 60-64 had a fatality rate almost twice as high as all of the ages rate and workers over 65 and over had a fatality rate of more than four times as high.
In addition to the 147 fatalities in the workplace, a total of 92 members of the public were killed in 2018/19 as a result of a work-connected accident. This is a reduction of six from the previous year (2017/18). Approximately one third (32) of these incidents took place on railways.
Any injury or fatality in the workplace is a tragedy and will have an impact on all those involved.
The industries above involve inherent risks from working at height, working with vehicles / machines, working with electricity etc. The statistics published by the HSE suggest that there is still a need for increased awareness of the risks in these sectors.
Falls from height continue to be the biggest killer, followed by being struck by a moving vehicle and object. Whether it’s ensuring adequate protection whilst working at height (PPE, edge protection for example), making sure traffic management plans and pedestrian / vehicle segregation is implemented and enforced or ensuring exclusion zones are in place around moving objects, the risks of fatality must be identified and managed.
Under the Definitive Guideline for Health and Safety Offences, in the event of a serious injury or fatality, which inevitably will result in an HSE investigation and potential prosecution, organisations and individuals are at real risk of facing large fines and potentially custodial sentences for breaches of health and safety law.
Since the implementation of the Definitive Guideline in February 2016 there have been significant increases in the fines imposed on organisations and individuals. The average fine (organisations) has increased to £221,700 compared with £40,500 pre-Guideline. For individuals the average fine has increased to £8,200 from £6,300 pre-Guideline.
It’s essential that risk assessments, safe systems of work and method statements are in place and that they have been communicated effectively and understood by those signing them. Frequently we are presented with situations where someone has tried to do something quickly, or decided to cut corners or take a risk because “that’s the way they’ve always done it” and on that day it’s resulted in serious injury or worse.
These types of accidents and incidents can largely be avoided through effective training, supervision, monitoring and clear documentation.
Our regulatory team deals with a number of workplace fatality cases on a regular basis. For more information or advice, please contact one of our experts.
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