Death and Injury Annual Data highlights the Construction Industry


As 2011 closed, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) published annual statistics for deaths and major accidents caused at work in the UK. These figures relate to the period from April 2010 to March 2011 and are provisional because some reports take a long time to come in or be verified, but they provide a pretty reliable year-on-year basis for assessing safety at work on historical, sector-by-sector, and international comparison bases.

For those in the Construction sector, there is a particular significance because it is (unenviably) top of the list in terms of deaths at work.

All deaths at work171

As can be seen, these three sectors represent more than 50% of all deaths. Waste and recycling can also be involved with construction work, and as is often pointed out in health and safety blogs, many agricultural incidents are caused by what are essentially construction activities being carried out (often inappropriately) by farm workers. So one way or another, building, demolition and associated activities are very much in the regulators’ sights.

To put things into perspective, in this last recorded 12 month period there were 6 deaths per million workers in the UK. When compared with our nearest and most comparable neighbours, i.e. the other 4 main industrial nations in the EU (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) Britain has the lowest death rate per worker of any, and one of the lowest even when compared with smaller European nations.

However that is not to say that complacency should set in. One death is too many and it is important to point out the regrettable increase in deaths from 147 to 171 year-on-year; and given that industrial activity has hardly been on an upward curve it is unlikely that there are any mitigating circumstances.

Injuries are of course far more common, and there were 24,700 that were classified as major injuries in the year.
The HSE has issued a challenge to business owners for 2012 to make safety their top priority: and has emphasised that they each have a legal responsibility not to put workers’ lives at risk.

It is of course often the case that the media lampoon the health and safety regulators for enforcing stupid and trivial rules. It is therefore refreshing to read the HSE stating that businesspeople should focus on tackling ‘real dangers’ and not trivial risks or carrying out pointless paperwork. Many people will include in their New Year wishes the hope that this sentiment will be carried through in deed as well as word by the regulators.

It is clear that Construction in its many forms will loom large in the activities of the legislators in 2012 and the challenge for contractors and subcontractors will be to play their part in lessening risk and satisfying the authorities. For their part, McCormack Benson Health & Safety, consultants who specialise in construction health and safety matters, are ready to assist firms with practical hands-on support and guidance through the year ahead.