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How Many Fatalities Really Take Place in the Workplace?
Posted by David Cant on July 30, 2015

How Many Fatalities Really Take Place in the Workplace?

statistics on a blackboardHealth and safety myth-mongers love to downplay the importance of the many rules and restrictions we have in our workplaces.

But as we know all too well, these are there to keep everyone safe from harm. But however hard we might try to keep things hazard-free, accidents do happen – and the worst of course, is when a serious injury or fatality occurs.

But how many of these really take place, and what are the biggest culprits? With the newly released stats on fatal injuries being published by the HSE, we’ve got the chance to take a closer look at what went on last year – as well as looking at what we need to take more care on!

A cold, hard look at the numbers

First off – let’s take a look at the stats. There were 265 fatal injuries across the board over the past year – while it might not sound like a lot overall, it’s jarring to see that there’s been a slight increase from the previous year.

So which industries are most at risk?

It might not come as much of a surprise – but agriculture and construction were the two industries with the biggest number of injuries, with 37 and 39 each, respectively.

Good news for the mining industry though – with only two fatal injuries over the past year, this sector’s fared well, and it’s heartening to see that increasing safety awareness has definitely paid off!

Compared with the rest of the world…

We always want to make sure we minimise the risk of injuries as much as possible – whether they’re fatal or serious injuries, or minor ones.

It’s good to see that the efforts people are making across the board really do make a difference – the UK has a much lower rate of incidents compared to the rest of the EU – and especially in comparison to other big industrial countries like Germany and France.

So give yourself a well deserved pat on the back for that one!

What needs to be done?

Health and safety is always an on-going task – you’ll always have to make sure that you’ve adapted to the constantly changing environment and factors around you!

So an important thing to bear in mind when reviewing your safety measures is to make sure they are regularly updated with a complete risk assessment. Don’t just rely on one done yonks ago – check out what regulations might have changed, any new equipment that might have introduced, and if any new risks have emerged.

Don’t overlook the small details on your work site either. You might be used to walking past the same old safety rail everyday – but that doesn’t mean you should stop to check it and take a fresh look – you might not realise what hazards go unnoticed everyday.

Your takeaway points:

  • there were 265 fatal injuries in the workplace in the UK, over the past year – which is actually a small increase from the previous year
  • Agriculture and construction were the two industries that took the biggest hit, so if you’re in those fields make sure you’re paying extra attention
  • The UK is still a lot safer in the workplace than many other countries, especially other places across the EU – so there’s some good news at least!

Have you encountered any fatal accidents in the workplace? What are you doing to keep your site safer?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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  1. July 30, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Still not a hard enough look. Mining fatalities down mainly because there is hardly any mining left. Agriculture includes forestry and that includes arboriculture. Farming is really struggling with a higher than average suicide rate and hundreds leaving the sector. Most smaller farms are owner managed and most work is done in house. This is why youngsters from farming are so sought after by employees 0 they can turn their hand to anything and work incredibly long hours.
    And so it goes on….

    • July 31, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Very Interesting..Farming industry is not a sector i’ve really explored that much if i’m honest but I do realise how much industry workers could be exploited..especially with migrant workers seeking a place to stay…and working in return

      Thank You for stopping by and taking the time to comment…

      • Alan Plom
        November 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm


        An jnterestjng post but a couple of comments:
        Picking up on Liz Bennet’s points about agriculture: yes it includes forestry and arboriculture – the latter when work is on an HSE enforced premises, or it appears in LA stats.
        My main suggestion is that ‘most dangerous’ should not be based just on total deaths. You must compare like with like, ie Incidence rate, taking account of nos. working in each Sector. Farming is typically 6-8x higher than construction and double that for treework, so we have a major problem to change the culture.
        Keep it up!

        • November 7, 2017 at 9:21 am

          Alan. Thanks for dropping by and your comments. I tend to agree with you, ideally there needs to be an even playing field in order to gain a more accurate figure. David.

  2. peter gotch
    December 14, 2015 at 9:57 am


    We are one of very few developed countries who do not count most work related travel accidents in our statistics. As soon as you put in what ever estimate of road (and other transport) accidents that are work-related we compare poorly compared with most EU states.

    We are also way behind northern and eastern europe when it comes to managing occupational health risks despite the recognition that for every fatal accident we have an estimate of another 99 premature deaths arising from OH risks.

    So pat on the back really not deserved.

    • January 25, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Peter. Stats for Travel accidents are not widely available so I can see why the UK appears poor in that regard.
      As for managing occupational health risks i’m sure we will start to see improvements in the industry with the HSE’s drive on Health. What do you think?

      Thanks for dropping by and your comments by the way.

  3. Ian Routh
    January 28, 2016 at 11:23 am

    One thing that we must never loose sight of is that whilst The UK is amongst the better performers re Health & Sadety at Work, we still had 265 fatalities. This is 265 ‘personal family tragedies’. Losses of loved ones, a parent, son or daughter is heartbreaking at any time, but to loose a life simply as a consequence of ‘going to work’ or interacting with a workplace is not what a successful country should accept so lightly.

    • February 1, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Hi Ian.. i couldn’t agree more….thanks for your comments

  4. Hilda Palmer
    October 7, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    The HSE only records those fatalities at work which are reported to HSE and L.As under RIDDOR. UK Statistics Authority assessment of HSE’s compliance with the code of practice for official statistics, May 2010, states ‘HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’ and recommends they ‘investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries & fatalities’ Report 42

    The TUC estimates 20,000 work-related illnesses deaths but accepts this is the lower end of realistic.
    Hazards Campaign estimates deaths due to work-related incidents – the visible tip of the iceberg of work-related harm in GB in 2014/15 = 863 – 1,299 workers killed in work-related incidents + 102 members of the public = total 1,027 to 1,474 made up of:
    •142 workers reported to HSE & L.A. under RIDDOR (provisional figures)
    •+ Workers killed at sea* and in the air estimated at 50
    •+ 583-880 killed in work-related road traffic incidents- lorry drivers + some of those on their way to work + others killed in those road traffic incidents l(one third to half of total Road traffic fatalities of 1,760 are work-related)
    •+ about 150-300 suicides due to the pressures of work (suicides up >10% +in current economic crisis)
    •+ Members of the public killed by work activity = 102
    *Merchant seafarers killed UK water and on board UK ships, plus those killed in Fishing in UK waters.
    Hazards estimates of those killed by work-related illness each year in GB – the bulk of the iceberg of work-related deaths = up to 50,000, this includes:
    • 18,000 by work-related cancer at 12% (8-16%) at least 5,000 due to asbestos cancers
    • Heart Disease – 20% of deaths work related due to stress, long hours, shift work = up to 20,000
    • Respiratory Illness -15-20% of obstructive lung disease = about 6,000
    • Other diseases including restrictive lung diseases = about 6,000
    Hazards Estimates are that 140 people a day or 6 per hour are killed by work in Great Britain per year. Compare this with 574 murders last year and around 630 British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over 14 years.
    But just another thought: some of the reduction in deaths, injuries and illness caused by work since 1974 has occurred because employers have shipped heavy industry, mining, manufacturing abroad to countries with poor non existent health and safety and poverty wages and virtual/real slavery in many cases. The phones, electronic equipment, food, shoes, clothes we now import and buy are being made with far, far more ill health, deaths and injury than if they have been made in the UK under our better H&S system. And under the ‘Better Regulation’ agenda H&S enforcement is being destroyed, deaths and illnesses going up…. Back to the future?

    • October 17, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Some very interesting Statistics and insights. According to the HSE 40% of actual incidents are not reported under RIDDOR.

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