I previously wrote a blog on the HSE Annual Statistics for Fatal Workplace Injuries in 2017/2018. This year's report has now been published and shows a significant increase in fatalities in Scotland and an overall increase across the UK. Does this mean health & safety standards in the UK may be slipping?
One year on - what has changed?
The report states that the number of workers killed at work in Scotland increased by 70%, from 17 in 2017-18 to 29 for the period 2018-19. For the UK overall, there was a 4% increase in the number of people killed while at work.
Agriculture and construction continue to be the industries with the greatest number of fatalities a year with an increase in the number of deaths from agriculture, forestry and fishing from 3 to 13.
That isn't hugely surprising when you take into account the top three accident kinds for fatal accidents for workers continue to be (1) falls from height, (2) being struck by a moving vehicle or object and (3) contact with moving machinery - all of which, of course, are risks commonly found in these sectors.
In terms of worker types, again, those over 60 years of age and those who are self-employed remain at a higher risk. It is worth remembering that if you are a business engaging self-employed workers, you still have health & safety responsibilities towards them.
Is the increase in fatalities a trend that is expected to continue?
Whilst it is natural to be concerned, the HSE has made it clear in their report that the increase in figures should be treated with some caution, stating that there is a "degree of chance and randomness" to the fatal injury levels and noting that the average deaths over the last 5 years is 142 against this year's total figure of 147 deaths. They also state that the 70% rise in Scotland "can possibly be explained by natural variation in the figures and at this stage does not indicate any statistically significant change."
It is also worth remembering that the UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatalities across the EU but nevertheless, we hope that next year's report has better news.