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Written on 20th July 2022 by Kim Milan

Workplace safety watchdog, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has published its latest figures for the number of workplace fatalities (deaths at work) which occurred in Britain from April 2021 to March 2022. HSE’s annual round up of key statistics is based on work-related accidental deaths that were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to enforcement authorities for health and safety at work.

This year’s report coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Robens report into health and safety at work, which led to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the setting up of HSE. Since the 1970s, when  HSE began its important and valuable work, the number of injuries and deaths from accidents at work  in this country has significantly reduced. This year’s report shows that in 2021 to 2022 the number of workplace fatalities slightly decreased, but the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes this is no cause for celebration.  

Serious workplace injuries are life-changing for injured workers who survive but are left with permanent disability, and devastating to the families of those who die. In many cases, these accidents could have been prevented.

What do the HSE’s stats say about deaths at work in Britain?

The HSE’s provisional workplace fatality figures found that in 2021-2022:

  • There were 123 deaths from injuries in workplace incidents.
  • Four industries accounted for nearly three quarters (73%) of all reportable workplace fatalities:
  • When the industries were compared by the rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers employed:
    • agriculture, forestry and fishing sector had the highest death rate, 21 times the all-industry rate;
    • waste and recycling sector’s death rate was 11 times the all-industry rate;
    • the construction industry’s death rate was four times the average rate across all industries, despite having a greater number of cases;
    • the manufacturing industry’s death rate was 1.5 times as high as the average all-industry rate;
    • and the transportation and storage sector has a fatal injury rate of twice the all-industry rate.  
  • The most common causes of accidental death (which together caused more than half of all fatal injuries) were:
    • falls from height (24% or 29 deaths);
    • being struck by a moving vehicle (19% or 23 deaths);
    • being struck by a moving, flying or falling object (15% or 18 deaths).
  • 116 (94%) of all workers who died in fatal accidents at work were male.
  • A third (33%) of those who died were self-employed, although self-employed workers make up only 16% of the workforce.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%, 29 deaths) of those who died were workers aged 60 and over, despite this age group only making up 11% of the workforce.
  • The workplace fatality rate for workers aged 60-64 is twice the average rate across all age groups.
  • The rate for workers aged 65 and over is four times the average rate across all age groups.
  • England has a lower worker injury rate than Scotland or Wales, most likely as a result of differences in the mix of industries and occupations, and more people working in lower risk jobs in England than in Scotland and Wales

In addition to employees who died in accidents, 80 members of the public were killed as a result of workplace accidents.

The HSE figures relate to reportable workplace accidents. They say that these do not include deaths at work caused by:

  • road traffic accidents (RTAs);
  • travel by air or sea;
  • injury to MOD (military) forces whilst on duty;
  • injuries at work from ‘natural causes’ such as heart attacks or strokes, unless caused by trauma from an accident;
  • work-related deaths to members of the public whilst patients and users of health and social care services;
  • deaths from occupational diseases or exposure, such as mesothelioma or Covid-19. HSE’s figures for mesothelioma (from exposure to asbestos) are published separately, and show that 2,544 people died from the disease in 2020.

Commenting on the HSE’s latest workplace fatality figures, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) acknowledged the significant reduction in workplace fatalities over recent decades but emphasised that these figures remain far too high.

Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Health and Safety at IOSH, said: 

“When seeking to protect workers and prevent harm, this reduction in the number of workplace fatal injuries is no cause for celebration. The bare fact is that 123 people lost their life in 2021-22 because of a workplace accident, and we can’t forget the unimaginable pain and impact caused to their loved ones, friends and colleagues. This is not acceptable and we are calling on businesses to review how they protect their workforce, to ensure they leave no stone unturned in their efforts to prevent workplace accidents, injuries and ill health…  One death at work is one too many. Every working person should expect they can carry out their duties in a safe and healthy way and in a safe and healthy working environment.”


Learning from workplace injury statistics

Whilst workplace injury statistics are never comfortable to read, they are vitally important in reducing harm from accidents by increasing workplace learning. HSE’s statistical reports shine a light on the industries where workers are at greatest risk, and raise awareness of the environments and circumstances in which fatal and serious injuries are most likely to happen. Learning from others’ mistakes can remind employers that by paying attention to risk assessments, careful job planning, investing time and money in safety training and equipment, they can prevent accidents and safeguard their workers from serious injury.

Can fatal accidents at work be avoided?

In busy workplace environments involving people some accidents will always happen, but the risk of accidents and injury can be greatly reduced if employers (and workers) follow the law, health and safety regulations and supporting guidance provided by the HSE. The law requires employers to take reasonable steps to safeguard their employees’ safety. Given the potential for severe consequences for injured employees,  HSE takes these responsibilities very seriously and prosecutes employers whose failure to comply with the rules results in serious injury or death.   

In addition to the deaths at work that have been highlighted by HSE’s latest report, many more workers survive severe injuries from accidents involving falls, moving objects and machinery, which have a devastating, lifelong impact on the injured worker and their family. The injured person may be left unable to work, adding financial hardship to their suffering from severe physical injuries. They may need rehabilitation, care and significant adaptations to their home and lifestyle as a result of head injury, spinal cord injury, major trauma or permanent disability. Where the accident causes fatal injury, the deceased worker’s grieving dependent family’s suffering is made worse as a result of financial worries. Boyes Turner’s personal injury claims specialists have helped hundreds of injured workers and their families rehabilitate, recover and rebuild their lives with the help of compensation in the difficult time that follows a serious workplace accident.

If you have been severely injured or lost a loved one as a result of an accident at work, contact us here to talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about making a claim.