UK Health & Safety “World Class” says HSE


It is not often that you hear the Health & Safety Executive saying positive things about the state of workplace safety in the UK: it is their mission, after all, to chide and chase business to always do better.

So when we get the sort of press release that they have recently issued, admitting that we have one of the best safety records to be seen in any comparable industrial country, we should take a moment to be satisfied in the way in which we manage these matters.

The lowest ever workplace death toll (due to injuries sustained at work) was recorded in the last 12-month reporting period. There is always a caveat that they have to wait for delayed figures on the injured or ill, so these are provisional figures. However, for now the record shows that in the period April 2013 to March 2014 there were 133 fatalities. This compares with -

  • 2012/13 – 150
  • 2011/12 – 171
  • 2010/11 – 175
  • 2009/10 – 147
  • 2008/09 – 179

The figures could of course be affected by changes in the working population, but after taking these figures into account, the death rate was down to 0.44 per 100,000 in work, compared to 0.51 in the 2012/13 year and 0.56 over a 5-year period.

HSE Chair Judith Hackitt rightly sympathised with the plight of those who have lost loved ones; but she also acknowledged the progress that the UK is making, and said that these figures “confirm Britain’s performance in health and safety as world class”.

Safest Major Industrial European Nation

It is worth emphasising that for 8 straight years our country has had a record of being one of the safest countries to work in (judged by this measure) when you look at comparable nations in Europe. Britain has consistently been safer than Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

Mike Penning, Minister of State for Health and Safety, added his voice to the congratulations and complemented the HSE on its work, saying “the Health and Safety Executive do an excellent job in making sure each and every one of us can go out to do an honest day’s work in the knowledge that our safety is being taken seriously.

Construction Safety Improvement

The three high-risk industries that were singled out were:

  1. Agriculture: 27 fatal injuries (average 33 over 5 years). Rate of fatal injury 8.77 per 100,000 (average 9.89)
  2. Waste and recycling: 4 fatal injuries (average 7). Rate of fatal injury 3.33 per 100,000 (average 5.48)
  3. Construction: 42 fatal injuries (average 46). Rate of fatal injury 1.98 per 100,000 (average 2.07)

Thus building and demolition, often in the news due to the high absolute numbers, is by no means the most dangerous activity.

Total Figures by Country


106 fatal injuries: 0.41 deaths per 100,000 (134 deaths average), and 119 deaths (0.47) in 2012/13


20 fatal injuries: 0.78 deaths per 100,000 (21 deaths average), and 23 deaths (0.90) in 2012/13


7 fatal injuries: 0.52 deaths per 100,000 (10 deaths average), and 8 deaths (0.61) in 2012/13

It is good to see the figures going down in all parts of Britain – the only unfavourable movement to be reported was not in the accident data but in the area of health: deaths from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma showed an increase, to 2,535 in 2012 compared with 2,291 in 2011.

HSE puts this down to “historically poor standards of workplace health and safety, which decades later are causing thousands of painful, untimely deaths each year.” HSE plans an asbestos awareness drive in October.

The next major data will be announced in October, showing the number of serious injuries as well as estimates of the numbers of premature deaths due to exposures of dangerous in the workplace.