Construction fatalities hit record low but mesothelioma deaths increase

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Figures from the Health and Safety Executive have revealed the number of construction fatalities in 2016/17 fell but asbestos-related cancers rose

Good news for the sector, as the number of construction fatalities seen in 2016/17 reached a record low.

The figures, which were compiled by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), revealed only 30 construction workers were killed during the period. This represents the lowest figure on record for the sector, beating the annual average for the past five years of 39.

The HSE said over the last 20 years there has been a downward trend in the number of fatal injuries sustained by workers and while the figures have halved there have recently been signs of levelling off.

HSE Chair Martin Temple said: “Every fatality is a tragic event that should not happen. While we are encouraged by this improvement on the previous year, we continue unwaveringly on our mission to prevent injury, death and ill health by protecting people and reducing risks.”

While the decline is undoubtedly good news, it is also worth noting that the annual average rate in the sector is still significantly higher than other industries. Furthermore, the drop in deaths was less than was forecast.

Asbestos-related cancer

The figures for mesothelioma were not as promising. Mesothelioma reportedly killed 2,542 people across Great Britain in 2015. Comparatively, this figure stood at 2,519 in 2014.

The cancer is caused by asbestos and the data reflects the widespread exposure to the substance before 1980. It is forecast the number of annual deaths attributed to asbestos will start to reduce after 2020.

Temple added: “We deal daily with the causes and consequences of work-related deaths, injuries and ill health. Today’s updated figures continue to inform our understanding of which areas we need to target.”

“We concentrate our interventions where we know we can have the biggest impact. We hold dutyholders accountable for managing the risks they create in the workplace. This benefits workers, business performance, the economy and wider society alike.”

Findings

The report, which covered other industries as well as the construction sector, found 92 members of the public were fatally injured in accidents connected to work—almost half of which occurred on railways.

Overall, older workers were found to be more at risk of fatal injury, with around a quarter of all incidents in 2016/17 involving workers over the age of 60. This group make up just 10 per cent of the workforce.

A fuller assessment will be released on 1 November 2017.

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