Construction tops fatal workplace injuries but…

More workers died in construction than any other sector according to the Health and Safety Executive’s provisional figures for workplaces in Great Britain in 2022/23 and released on 6 July. 

However, although the number of workers killed in construction was more than double that in agriculture, forestry and fishing, the sector’s fatal injury rate for the past five years is considerably less. Compared to all other industries, agriculture, forestry and fishing remains the deadliest sector to work in. 

A total of 135 workers died in work-related accidents in Great Britain in 2022/23, according to the HSE’s data. The latest figure is an increase of 12 on the 123 workers who sustained fatal injuries in 2021/22.

The construction sector was responsible for a third (45) of the total number of fatalities, which is more than twice the number of fatalities in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector (21). 

The HSE’s data also reveals that 33 of the deaths were workers aged 60 or over while the most common cause of death was falls from a height (40). This is double the number of fatalities caused by workers being struck by a moving vehicle (20) and slightly more than a third more than workers killed after being struck by moving, including flying/falling, objects (29). 

According to Work-related fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2023, the three main causes of fatalities together account for around two-thirds of the total number.

Despite the increase in the overall number of fatalities, the HSE notes the current rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers is ‘similar to pre-coronavirus levels’. For example, in 2018/19, there were 149 fatalities, an increase of eight on the previous reporting year. The latest provisional total is the same as 2016/17.

Drilling down further, when the data is compared to the five-year average for fatal injuries covering 2018/19 to 2022/23, the latest construction figures reflect a slight increase – up from 37 to 45 fatalities. In contrast, the figures for agriculture, forestry and fishing have slightly decreased when the same comparison is made – 21 fatalities in the latest figures compared to the five-year average’s 26 fatalities. 


And yet, in terms of the fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers, the HSE notes that agriculture, forestry and fishing is 21 times as high (8.60 per 100,000) as the all industry rate (0.41 per 100,000) based on the annual five-year average rates.

The data reveals that the waste and recycling sector ‘also has an elevated rate of fatal injury over this period’ (4.08 per 100,000) compared to the average across all industries.

Although construction accounts for the greatest number of fatalities in the latest figures, the sector’s rate of fatal injury (1.72 per 100,000) is considerably less than that seen in agriculture, forestry and fishing, the data shows.

Turning to causes of injuries, the data highlights five causes that accounted for 80% of all fatalities over the combined five-year period from 2018/19 to 2022/23.

Analysing the data over a longer period, the HSE notes that falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a moving, including flying or falling, object remain the top three causes of fatal injury. Since 2001/02 they have accounted for more than half of all fatalities each year. 

Drilling down, the data for injuries by gender and age reveal some interesting findings. 

The latest figures show that male workers accounted for 129 (96%) of all worker fatalities and this is a similar proportion to earlier years, notes the HSE report.

What’s notable, however, is that 25% of the fatalities were to workers aged 60 or over, even though they made up only 11% of the workforce. 

Looking at the fatal injury rate by age group for the five-year period, it is clear that the rate of fatal injury increases with age. The HSE notes that workers aged 60-64 have a rate that is around twice the all ages’ rate. The statistic is worse for workers aged 65 and over: the rate is three times as high as the all ages’ rate. 

Another interesting finding is that 33% of fatal injuries over the five-year period were self-employed workers. This is significant considering that this employment group only comprises around 15% of the overall workforce. 

The HSE says the proportion of fatal injuries to employees and self-employed varies considerably by industry. For example, taking the data for the five-year period, more than half of fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing were to self-employed workers (64%) compared to 37% in construction. 

This is also reflected in the fatal injury rate for the self-employed for this five year period. The data shows that agriculture, forestry and fishing is twice the employee rate respectively. However, administrative and support service activities is worse and is four times the employee rate respectively. 
Responding to the HSE’s latest figures, IOSH has called for continued and strengthened efforts to ensure people are protected at work.

‘This data is a sobering reminder of the consequences of health and safety failures and that our effort to prevent occupational accidents, incidents, ill health and diseases must not stop,’ said Ruth Wilkinson, head of policy at IOSH. 

‘We must ensure that root causes are identified, and action taken to prevent recurrence and, importantly, we must ensure lessons are learned from each of these [135] tragedies. It is time for the government, policymakers and businesses to recognise the importance of good health and safety.


‘They need to take action to prevent harm, implement holistic prevention strategy approaches and ensure that all work is safe and healthy.’

The HSE’s latest report, which covers the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, pulls together the number of fatal injuries not only to workers but also the public as reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). 

In 2022/23, 68 members of the public died in work-related accidents, which is a decrease of 20 fatalities on the number reported last year. 

The HSE notes that statistically this is significantly below the pre-pandemic level and points to the four-year period from 2015/16 to 2018/19 when the annual average was 107 deaths per year to members of the public.  

The report’s provisional figures will be finalised in July 2024 to take account of any necessary adjustments, says the HSE. 

Although the number of fatalities has dropped from previous decades – there were nearly 500 in the early 1980s – and standards have improved greatly, IOSH says the 135 deaths reported for 2022/23 will be of no comfort to families who have lost someone.

‘With a safe and healthy working environment now one of the International Labour Organization’s fundamental principles and rights at work, let’s make this a watershed moment by increasing awareness and increasing occupational safety and health capacity, regulatory capacity,’ Ruth said. 

‘Let’s strive to make a difference and enhance health and safety standards, performance, controls and practice at work. Now is not the time to stop and become complacent.’

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