Provisional Riddor reporting figures* were released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 06th July 2022.  The report highlights the number of fatal injuries that befell workers and also members of the public throughout the reporting period. 

The number of people who lost their lives whilst at work, in Great Britain, over the 2021 – 22 annual reporting period has thankfully seen a decrease upon previous years with 123 deaths recorded as a result of work related accidents.  However, the number of fatal injuries are subject to random variation, fluctuating year-on-year and therefore it is necessary to look at trends over a number of years. In the recent years prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of annual fatalities had been broadly flat. In both 2020/21 and 2021/22, the coronavirus period, the number of annual deaths remained broadly in line with pre-pandemic levels.

These figures do not include deaths resulting from: natural causes, road traffic accidents, any form of commuting or service with the armed forces whilst on duty.  Neither do they include (importantly!) those fatalities that result from occupational diseases.

In addition, it was reported that 80 members of the public had also lost their lives as a result of work related activity.  This is an increase of 17 from the previous low recorded last year (63) but it remains significantly below the annual average of 106 deaths per year over the five year period 2015/16 – 2019/20.

Fatal injuries to workers by main industry

The fatal injuries that occured in each industry are detailed in figure 1.  Around a quarter of fatal injuries to workers in 2021/22 were in the Construction sector (30 deaths), with a further 18% in each of the Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector and the Manufacturing sector (22 deaths in each). This is a similar profile of deaths by industry as seen in previous years.

 

 

Figure 1:  Fatalities By Industry

The profile of fatal injuries to workers by industry sector in 2021/22 is broadly similar to the profile for the 5-year period 2017/18-2021/22, with 73% of fatal injuries in 2021/22 occurring in four industry sectors: Construction, Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Manufacturing and Transportation and storage. 

  • The number of injuries in Construction in 2021/22 was 30, a decrease of 10 from the previous year total (40). The five-year average for fatal injuries in this sector is 36.
  • In Agriculture, forestry and fishing in 2021/22 there were 22 fatal injuries, a decrease of 12 from the previous year total (34). The five-year average for fatal injuries in this sector is 28.
  • The Manufacturing sector saw 22 fatal injuries in 2021/22, an increase of 3 from the previous year total (19). The five-year average for fatal injuries in this sector is 19.
  • In the Transportation and storage sector the total number of fatal injuries in 2021/22 was 16, an increase of 5 from the previous year total (11). The five-year average for fatal injuries in this sector is 14.

Fatal Accident Type

The types of accident that led to fatalities are highlighted in figure 2.  The most common kinds of fatal accidents to workers in 2021/22 continue to be: falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle, and being struck by a moving, including flying/falling, object. These accounted for over half of all fatal accidents to workers in 2021/22.

 

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Figure 2: Type of Fatal Accident

79% of all fatal injuries were accounted for by just 5 different accident types throughout the combined five-year period 2017/18-2021/22 (see Figure 3 below).

 

Falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a moving,including flying or falling, object continue as the three main causes of fatal injury,between them accounting for over half of all fatal injuries each year since at least 2001/02.

  • In 2021/22, 29 fatal injuries were due to Falls from a height accounting for 24% of all worker deaths over the year.
  • Struck by moving vehicle accounted for 23 fatal injuries to workers in 2021/22,representing 19% of the total number of deaths over the year.
  • 15% (18) of the fatal injuries in 2021/22 were caused by being; struck by moving, including flying/falling, objects.

Age and Gender

As can be seen in figure 4, around a quarter of the deaths in 2021/22 were to workers aged 60 and over (29), similar to the profile in earlier years.

 

Figure 4: Fatalities by Age

Fatal injuries to workers are predominately to male workers. In 2021/22, 116 (94%) of all worker fatalities were to male workers, a similar proportion to earlier years. In terms of age, 24% of fatal injuries in 2021/22 were to workers aged 60 and over, even though such workers made up only 11% of the workforce.

Figure 5 below shows the fatal injury rate by age group for the period 2017/18-2021/22. This clearly shows how the rate of fatal injury increases with age, with workers aged 60-64 having a rate around twice the average rate across all age groups and workers aged 65 and over a rate that is four times as high as the average rate across all age groups.

 

Figure 5: Rate of fatal injuries by age group (per 100,000 workers), annual average for 2017/18-2021/22

 

Long Term Trends

Despite long term reductions in the number of workers killed by work activities, each year such cases continue, with 123 such deaths in 2021/22. This number compares with 251 twenty years ago (2001/02) and 495 in 1981 (prior to 1981 only fatal injury numbers to employees were reported to enforcing authorities).

The 123 worker deaths in 2021/22 represents a decrease of 22 from the previous year however, it is possible that this change can be explained by natural variation in the figures. In statistical terms the number of fatalities has remained broadly level over most of the last decade, with the number in both 2020/21 and 2021/22 broadly in line with the pre-pandemic level.

Occupational Diseases

This information relates to Health and Safety Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2022. 

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres but is usually rapidly fatal following symptom onset. Mesothelioma has a strong association with exposure to asbestos and current evidence suggests that around 85% of all male mesotheliomas are attributable to asbestos exposures that occurred in occupational settings. Most of the remainder of male deaths and a majority of female deaths are likely to have been caused by asbestos exposures but which were not due to the direct handling of asbestos materials. The long latency period (i.e. the time between initial exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of the disease) of typically at least 30 years means that most mesothelioma deaths occurring today are a
result of past exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

  • There were 2,544 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2020, a rise of 6% compared with 2019, but similar to the average of 2523 deaths per year over the previous 8 years.
  • There were 2,085 male deaths in 2020. Although this is a rise of 6% compared with 2019, it is consistent with projections that annual male deaths will reduce beyond year 2020.
  • There were 459 female deaths in 2020, a rise of 7% compared with 2019 and higher than the average of 416 deaths per year over the previous 8 years. This is consistent with predictions that there will continue be 400-500 female deaths per year during the 2020s.
  • Figures for 2020 may have been affected to some extent by the coronavirus pandemic. A small number of individuals with mesothelioma and who developed COVID-19 may not have died in 2020 had pandemic not occurred. Conversely, delays in the death certification system could mean that a small number of additional 2020 deaths will be identified in the future.
  • Around two thirds of annual deaths for both males and females now occur in those aged over 75 years. Annual deaths in this age group continue to increase while deaths below age 65 are decreasing.
  • There were 1,910 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2020 of which 280 were female. This compares with 2,025 new cases in 2019, of which 240 were female.
  • Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively in the past continue to be most at risk of mesothelioma

This year’s report estimates that in the region of 12,000 deaths occur each year as a result occupational lung disease and cancer due to past exposure, primarily to chemicals and dust within the workplace. In addition there were an estimated 1.7 million workers suffering from work-related ill health in 2020/21 (labour force survey).

 

*Review the full report produced by the Health and Safety Executive.