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Published 24 julio 2023
Earlier this month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), published its annual statistics setting out the number of work-related fatal injuries in the year to March 2023. The data includes:
135 workers were killed in work-related incidents in Great Britain in 2022/23, an increase of 12 (10%) on the previous year, AND a total of 68 members of the public sustained fatal injuries, which is a decrease of 20 deaths (23%) from the same period last year.
In analysing the trends of fatal injuries to workers, it is clear that this year's figures are similar to those last seen prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, and are equivalent to data from 2016/17 where there was the same number of work-related deaths, but fewer than the year 2018/19, where there were 149 worker fatalities.
The data is helpfully filtered to show where most of the fatal incidents are occurring. 82% of fatal injuries in 2022/23 occurred within five industry sectors:
HSE have also considered the fatal injury rate by looking at the number of fatalities per 100,000 workers employed. The calculation shows that the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector appears to be the least safe and poses the greatest risk of serious injury across all the sectors, with waste and recycling in second place.
The statistics show that falls from height, and being struck by a moving vehicle or object remain the main causes of fatal injury. Combined, they have accounted for more than half of all fatalities every year since 2001/02. In the year to March 2023:
The trends show that incidents of work-related fatal injuries are predominantly to male workers. In 2022/23, 129 male workers suffered fatal injuries, which accounted for 96% of the deaths recorded. This is a similar proportion to previous years.
The highest rate of fatal injury is also to older workers in the 65+ age bracket; with workers aged 60-64 having a rate around twice the all ages rate, and workers aged 65 and over having a rate that is three times as high as the all ages rate. This is consistent with previous trends and demonstrates that the the risk of fatal injury appears to increase with age.
Around 33% of fatalities were sustained by the self-employed. This has been consistent in recent years, despite the number of self-employed workers only making up around 15% of the total workforce.
This increased rate is particularly evident in the high risk sectors of agriculture, forestry and fishing, where the fatal injury rate to self-employed workers is around twice the rate of fatal injury to employed workers, and in the administrative and support service sector, the rate is around four times higher than the employed rate.
68 members of the public were killed as a result of work-related incidents, with 59 of those occurring in the services sector, that is 87% of deaths which occurred in a sector comprising retail, accommodation and food, transportation, public administration (including education, health and social work) and arts, entertainment and recreation..
This is a decrease from the 88 deaths in 2021/22 and is significantly below the number of deaths to members of the public prior to the pandemic.
Whilst there has been a long term declining trend in the number of fatal incidents in the workplace over recent years, both to workers and members of the public, it is clear that certain sectors and workplace activities continue to pose significant risk.
The period 2022/23 has seen an increase of 12 (10%) worker deaths, up from 123 the year before, although in the construction sector the number of work related deaths has doubled, by 55% to 45 deaths, since this time last year. Whilst figures for the last three years have been impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic, the data for last year is broadly consistent with the pre-pandemic levels.
Falling from height and being struck by an object or moving vehicle, remain the most high risk workplace activities, and, based on these statistics, employers need to ensure that these work activities are suitably and sufficiently risk assessed, and that robust control measures are put in place to mitigate those risks.
The statistics also show that the rate of fatal injury is higher to older workers and reinforces the need for businesses to ensure that they have suitable training programmes with refresher training, and toolbox talks, being delivered to employees on a regular basis.
Members of the public are most at risk in the services sector with 87% of deaths to members of the public occurring in this sector. Businesses in these industries need to be aware of how their operations can impact on members of the public and have suitable risk assessments in place to safeguard their customers, as well as their staff.
HSE's Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, has said:
“Any loss of life in the workplace is a tragedy. While these figures show Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, safety must continue to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. Our mission is to protect people and places and we remain committed to maintaining safe workplaces and holding employers to account for their actions.”
These statistics should inform businesses as they proactively manage their health and safety risks but will also act as a prompt to regulators to inform their risk based approach to inspection and enforcement.
In the event of a fatality or serious injury, organisations are at risk of large fines should a prosecution follow a regulator's investigation. Similarly, individuals face a real risk of a custodial sentence for the most serious breaches of health and safety law. It is therefore essential that businesses have robust health and safety systems and processes in place, train their employees accordingly, and ensure effective safety standards are driven from the top down.
Our national Regulatory Team at DAC Beachcroft advises organisations across a diverse range of sectors on compliance with their statutory health and safety obligations, including responding to workplace incidents and RIDDOR reporting. We also offer a wide range of training sessions, mock trials and workshops. For more information or advice, please contact one of our specialist lawyers.
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