30 July, 2020
On the 1st July 2020, the HSE released the annual figures for 2019/20 for workplace fatal injuries reportable under RIDDOR and falling within their jurisdiction as enforcement authority. The figures as yet are provisional and will be finalised in July 2021.
There were 111 workers killed in 2019/20 and the analysis shows that the main high risk industries continue to result in fatal injuries.
The construction (40), agriculture, forestry and fishing (20) and manufacturing (15) and transport and storage (11) industries account for 77% of all fatal injuries. The Waste sector accounts for 5 fatal accidents.
The HSE have concentrated a lot of resources at targeting these industries to ensure the safety of workers but yet they account for a significant number of deaths at work. The Construction sector showed an increase of deaths to workers from the annual average figure (37) of the previous 5 years (2015/16-2019/20). The other industry sectors show that a downward trend of fatal injuries compared to the annual average.
Undoubtedly, these are high risk industries. There are moving plant, heavy machinery in use and the very dynamic nature of the work involved gives rise to a foreseeable risk of serious injury unless adequate and suitable control measures and safe systems of work are in place.
However, the statistics also show us that the main 5 causes of fatal accidents for workers have in some way a degree of correlation with these high-risk industries. Falls from height, being struck by a vehicle or object continue to be the cause of the highest number of fatal accidents.
The Working at Height Regulations have now been in force for over 15 years but accounts for 26% of fatal accidents for workers.
There is clearly something going wrong with getting the message across to businesses and workers on compliance with the Regulations to ensure that where work is carried out at height that there are 'suitable and sufficient' measures to prevent, so far as is 'reasonably practicable', any person falling or the fall of any material or object liable to cause personal injury.
Whilst we do not know the circumstances of each and every fatal accident, there will be failings which are likely to have arisen from adequate and suitable systems and control measures of work not being in place from the outset, inadequate supervision of working systems during working hours and/or inadequate instruction/training being provided to workers.
By far the highest number of fatal injuries to workers fall within the 16-59 age category (80) but those aged 60 plus (30) still account for 27% of the number of fatal accidents.
It is not just workers impacted by work related activities as the statistics also show that 92 members of the public were killed due to work related activities.
51 deaths related as a result of work related accidents and 41 deaths occurred on railways. The figures exclude the number of deaths which fall within the Local Authority enforcement jurisdiction.
Looking at trends, and whilst every death is a tragedy and probably preventable, the figures show an encouraging downward decreasing trend from the 2018/19 year period where there were 149 deaths. Whilst the long-term trend is downwards, there is much regional difference based on the mix of industries over the country.
At this stage, it is unknown how COVID-19 will impact on the 2020/21 annual statistics but you would expect the number of deaths to be considerably less given the lockdown restrictions that had been in place for many months and the slow recovery of the economy in many of the high risk end industries.