Fewer people died in workplace accidents in Britain last year than ever before – but more needs to be done to protect working people, the chartered body for safety and health professionals said today.
In 2019-20, 111 people lost their lives at work, down from 149 in the previous year. It is the first time in several years there has been a significant decline in fatal injuries, with the number plateauing in the last decade following years of improvement before that.
But the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes that number should be even lower and is calling for a continued drive to make workplaces safer.
Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at IOSH, said: “Decreases in fatalities are always extremely welcome, but we must also remember that lockdown restrictions may be contributing factors here, rather than purely improved prevention. And, of course, lower figures are no comfort at all to those who have lost loved ones.
“All 111 deaths last year were avoidable tragedies which will have left devastated families and friends having to come to terms with their loss. That is why we must continue to reduce that number further.
“And concerningly, these workplace deaths are only ever the tip of an iceberg of health and safety failure, with further work-related road deaths and over 13,000 people dying each year from disease caused by work exposures which, sadly and increasingly, will also include from Covid-19.
“We encourage employers to ensure that they are managing the safety and health risks in their workplaces. No one should have their life cut short by work.”
The figures were recently published by the Health and Safety Executive and cover the 12 months from the start of April 2019. The number of fatalities last year is the lowest since the HSE began publishing the number of workplace deaths.
Part of the reduction in fatalities is believed to have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, as workplaces ceased operations towards the end of the period covered by the report.
Construction and agriculture again accounted for the highest number of deaths, with 40 and 20 recorded respectively.
The most common cause of death across all sectors were falls from height (29) and being struck by a moving vehicle (20).
Meanwhile, there was again a disproportionately high number of older workers killed in accidents. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of workers killed were aged 60 or over, though they only account for ten per cent of the workforce.
And self-employed people had a fatal injury rate more than double that of employees.