The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that 137 people lost their lives in in the UK last year.
The figure, which relates to the period April 2016 to March 2017, is the second-lowest annual total on record – ten fewer than in 2015-16 and 34 fewer than in 2011-12.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has welcomed the reduction, but says a continued focus on efforts is required to ensure it is part of a downward trend in work-related fatalities and that work activities in 2017-18 do not endanger lives through poor risk management.
“The fact that fewer people are being harmed by work activities shows that employers are recognising the importance of health and safety,” commented Shelley Frost, Executive Director of Policy at . “This is in no small part down to the knowledge, experience and vigilance of health and safety professionals who ensure that risks are managed effectively in workplaces.”
“But 137 people were still killed in work-related accidents last year,” she added. “Work-related fatalities are entirely preventable so we must strive to reduce this number further.”
Of the 137 deaths in 2016-17, 30 were in construction. However this was the lowest annual number on record in that sector. In the agricultural sector, there were 27 deaths while there were 14 fatal injuries in waste and recycling. Agriculture apparently has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
The figures also highlight that workers aged 60 or over accounted for about a quarter of deaths, despite them only making up 10% of the workforce.
In addition, there were 92 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2016/17. Almost half of these occurred on railways with the remainder occurring across a number of sectors including public services, entertainment and recreation.
The HSE has also revealed that 2,542 people died in Great Britain in 2015 from mesothelioma, a form of occupational cancer contracted from past exposure to asbestos, up from 2,519 in 2014.
The UK currently has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world. This latest figure, the said, reflects widespread exposure to asbestos before 1980, now manifesting as disease in older people.
“While organisations recognise safety as a key business value, it is vital that they also control worker exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos,” said Ms Frost. “We are concerned about the high number of mesothelioma deaths relating to asbestos exposure, which is more than 15 times the number of deaths caused by workplace accidents. It is likely this figure will decline from the start of the next decade but the fact is that deaths are increasing worldwide.”
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