The number of workers fatally injured in Britain last year remains largely unchanged, according to provisional data from the HSE. From April 2011 to March 2012, 173 workers were killed – down by two from the previous year. The rate of fatal injury remains the same at 0.6 per 100,000 workers.

Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, called on employers to focus on “the real risks that continue to cause death and serious injury. HSE is working very hard to make it easier for people to understand what they need to do and to focus on the real priorities. Protecting people from death and serious injury at work should be at the heart of what we all do.”

There was disappointment amongst health and safety experts at the figures, with IOSH Executive Director of Policy, Dr Luise Vassie, saying:

“It’s disappointing to see that figures have largely remained unchanged and even one person who dies simply while making a livelihood is too many.

“Alarmingly, these figures aren’t representative of the real picture, as they don’t include the thousands of people who have died from work-related illnesses and driving for work.”

There was also concern at IOSH that the statistics don’t reflect the real picture – “that thousands of people die from occupational illness each year – making the true cost of work-related injury and ill health much greater.”

Richard Evens, Commercial Training Director at St John Ambulance, said it was encouraging to see that the number of workplace deaths in the UK had not risen this year, but added:

“We are disappointed that the figure has not reduced to 2009/10 levels – a record low – or further.

“Cutting these figures over the past few years, has been a focus for UK Health and Safety, which is why after an increase last year it is disappointing to see that they remain at a similar level. 173 deaths is still too many and we hope to see this number come down further over the year ahead.”

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said what was most worrying is that during previous economic downturns:

“There has been a decrease in the rate of fatalities. The fact that this is not happening now suggests that deaths could rise sharply as Britain comes of out recession, unless urgent action is taken to improve workplace safety.

“During the past two years we have seen a considerable fall in the number of routine safety inspections and at the same time both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities have had their funding cut.

“Yet still we see the government continuing to attack what they claim is an un-necessary health and safety culture, a view that is unlikely to be shared by the families of the 173 people who died last year as a result of their jobs.”

More positively, the rate of fatal injuries in several of the key industrial sectors show a general fall:

  • 49 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded – a rate of 2.3 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 59 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 50 deaths (and rate of 2.3) recorded in 2010/11.
  • 33 fatal injuries to agriculture workers were recorded – a rate of 9.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 35 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 30 deaths (and rate of 8.7) recorded in 2010/11.
  • Five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded – a rate of 4.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of six deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the nine deaths (and rate of 8.4) recorded in 2010/11.