The latest provisional statistics produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that 144 people were killed at work in the 12 months to the end of March 2016. This corresponds to a rate of 0.46 deaths per 100,000 workers and is comparable with the rate for 2014/15 when 142 died. Whilst still unacceptably high, this latest fatal injury rate is 7% lower than the previous 5 year average rate of 155 deaths.

Although the figures indicate a downward trend of workplace deaths, the HSE are concerned that it is levelling off.

A detailed analysis of all fatalities shows that most occur in the construction sector with 43 construction workers killed last year. Although this was an increase on last year’s total of 35, the injury rate fell marginally which is the statisticians preferred method of measure as it takes account of the numbers employed in the economy each year.

There were also 27 fatalities in agriculture, though this is lower than the five-year average of 32.

Sectors which did not do so well include the manufacturing industry which saw a significant increase in the number of workplace deaths. There were 27 fatalities last year, 23% higher than the five-year average of 22. The injury rate also increased when compared to the previous five years. Eight of those fatalities were caused by three incidents, two of which led to two deaths each. The third, an explosion at the Wood Treatment plant in Bosley, Cheshire in July 2015, killed four workers.

In addition to the 144 workplace deaths in 2015/16, 103 members of the public were also fatally injured in accidents connected to work. Thirty-six (35%) of those occurred on railways.

The HSE also released the latest available figures on deaths from asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma, one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos, killed 2,515 people in Great Britain in 2014 compared with 2,556 in 2013.

Commenting on the statistics Martin Temple, chair of the HSE, said: “Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but we should always be looking to improve and to prevent incidents that cost lives.” The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said the figures were a timely reminder of the need to continue to improve working conditions, both in Britain and across the world.

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