The tragic loss of life on Britain’s building sites

The number of fatal injuries in construction fell by a quarter last year, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

The industry had 30 fatalities during 2021-22, compared to 40 in 2020-21. Over five years, the average number per year was 36.

In total, the UK had 123 work-related deaths last year, a decrease of 17 per cent on the previous year. The most common causes of death were falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle or being struck by a moving, flying or falling object.

While construction had the greatest share of fatal injuries, with around a quarter of the total in 2021-22, it was actually much safer than other heavy industries when the rate per 100,000 workers was taken into account: fatal injuries were more than four times higher in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector than in construction.

HSE looked at fatal injuries by employment status between 2017-18 and 2021-22 and found that 64 per cent happened among employees, compared to 36 per cent for the self-employed.

HSE said the proportion of fatal injuries by employment status reflects to some extent the make-up of the working population and there was more parity in construction than other sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fishing. Most recent official statistics show the construction industry had 1.4 million employees and 770,000 self-employed – a 64/36 split.

However, the comparison is not so simple because many of the employees in construction are main contractor management and administrative staff working in offices, while the self-employed are the skilled trades working on site where they are at most risk.

Sarah Albon, chief executive of HSE, said: “While Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, the figures show we must continue to ensure safety remains a priority. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we are committed to making workplaces safer and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.”

Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson Contract, added: “Despite all the bad press, the figures demonstrate that self-employed subbies, who are vital to the industry, are actually safer than employees. This is probably because they are generally the more experienced workers on site and therefore less likely to put themselves in harm’s way.’’

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