Workplace fatal injuries 2017/18: beware complacency

Posted 16/07/2018 : By: Tim Ridyard

The Health and Safety Executive has released its annual report on 2017/18 workplace fatal injuries reportable to HSE, local authorities or the Office of Rail and Road under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). These do not include road traffic fatal accidents involving workers during worktime or when commuting.

In short, 144 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in the 2017-2018 reference period. This figure is slightly higher than the last five year average. In broad terms the figures have been stable over that period. In addition, 100 members of the public died as a result of a work-related accident of which half took place on railways.

The UK has the second lowest fatal injury rate in the EU.

Highest fatalities: agriculture and construction

Numerically the highest number of fatalities occurred in the agriculture sector (29 deaths) and the construction sector (38 deaths). All sectors have remained broadly stable over the last five years.

About a third of deaths were to self-employed workers (44% in the agriculture sector and 30% in construction.) This group suffers a fatal injury rate more than double that of employees.

Fatal injury rates: agriculture and waste & recycling

The fatal injury rate (calculated as deaths per 100,000 workers) is highest in the waste and recycling sector (10.26) and in the agriculture sector (8.44). The construction sector has more cases numerically (by a factor of four) but has a much lower injury rate.

Types of fatal accident

The HSE identifies that there are five different types of accident and in 2017/8 the number of deaths were (five year average in brackets):

Struck by moving vehicles35(26)
Trapped by a collapse/ overturning23(13)      
Other accident type13(34)

Age and gender

96% of fatal injuries were to male workers (138 deaths). Despite making up just 10% of the workforce 40% of deaths were of those 60 years old or over. Their group has a fatal injury rate greater than all ages by a factor of five.


The number of fatal incidents has basically continued to flatline over the last few years, as has the figure for injuries, after a long downward trend. The figures published clearly indicate where there is a greater statistical concentration of deaths by gender, sector, employment status and type of activity.

However, businesses simply cannot work on the basis of risk assessment based on statistical analysis. The true risk attached to a business and its workers depends on the way its systems of work are planned, assessed and managed. It remains the case that a disturbingly large number of businesses have no H & S policy statement (where required) or any procedures in place or such procedures as may exist are inadequate. It is a duty, not an aspiration, to provide plant and systems of work that are safe and do not risk health, so far as is reasonably practicable.

There can also be no complacency given the now very substantial fines for health and safety offences since the revised sentencing guideline came into force in February 2016. This has seen a substantial hike in fines, not least for medium and large businesses. It is not necessary for there to have occurred a particularly serious injury for significant penalties to be imposed by the courts.

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