Statistics published last week by the Heath and Safety Executive show that the number of workers fatally injured in Britain last year barely changed from the previous year.

Provisional data for April 2011 to March 2012 showed that 173 workers had been killed - a reduction of only two from 2010 to 2011. Overall, that rate equated to 0.6 per 100,000 workers.

The figures also record the rate of fatal injuries in several of the key industrial sectors:

  • In construction, there were 49 fatal injuries - a rate of 2.3 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 59 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 50 deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011
  • In agriculture, there were 33 fatal injuries - a rate of 9.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 35 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 30 deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011
  • Five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded - a rate of 4.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of six deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the nine deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011

Nationally the figures showed:

  • 130 fatal injuries in England - a rate of 0.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 157 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 146 deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011
  • 20 fatal injuries in Scotland - a rate of 0.8 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 25 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 14 deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011
  • 18 fatal injuries in Wales - a rate of 1.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 11 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 11 deaths recorded in 2010 to 2011

Given the slow rate of decrease, the TUC has called on the government to do more to bring down the numbers. Brendan Barber, the general secretary, said:

“What is most worrying is that during previous economic downturns there has been a decrease in the rate of fatalities. The fact that this is not happening now suggests that deaths could rise sharply as Britain comes of out recession, unless urgent action is taken to improve workplace safety.

“During the past two years we have seen a considerable fall in the number of routine safety inspections and at the same time both the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities have had their funding cut. Yet still we see the government continuing to attack what they claim is an un-necessary health and safety culture, a view that is unlikely to be shared by the families of the 173 people who died last year as a result of their jobs.

“The responsibility for these deaths may lie with the employers who break safety laws but ministers also have a duty to ensure that the rules are enforced and that the protection of workers is seen not as a 'burden' on employers but as a duty.”

To view the statistics, go to the Health & Safety Executive website.