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HSE publishes annual UK workplace fatality figures

29 July 2020

On July 1, the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) published its annual report on work-related fatal injuries for 2019/20. The report shows that a total of 111 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2019/20, a decrease of 38 from the previous year and the lowest annual number on record.

The HSE’s report says that it is difficult to assess what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the annual number of deaths. Statistics show that COVID-19 had a large impact on the output of the UK economy in March, but also anecdotal evidence of some small effects in February too. The number of workers killed at work was also lower in both these months compared to recent years though, in statistical terms, numbers are small and subject to fluctuation.

Excluding deaths in February and March, the number of worker deaths for the first ten months of the year was lower than comparable periods in recent years (99 in 2019/20 compared with 123 in 2018/19 and an annual average of 117 in the previous five-years), though it is possible that the difference can be explained by natural variation in the figures. However, looking over the full year, the number of deaths is statistically significantly lower suggesting that COVID-19 has had some impact on reducing numbers further. In statistical terms the number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years and the fall seen in the current year, while striking, may not reflect any major shift in the inherent dangerousness of workplaces.

The figure’s show that construction and agriculture, forestry and fishing account for the largest share of fatal injuries (30 and 20 fatal injuries respectively in 2019/20). 

2019/20 causes of death (& annual average 2015/16-2019/20)

*  Falls from height: 29 (34)
*  Struck by moving vehicle: 20 (26)
*  Struck by moving object: 18 (18)
*  Contact with moving machinery: 11 (11)
*  Trapped by something collapsing/overturning: 15 (14)
*  Other: 18 (34)

The last category includes two fatal injuries from ‘Exposure to explosion’ and one fatal injury from ‘Contact with electricity’.

51 members of the public were killed in 2019/20 as a result of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces and a further 41 occurred on railways (enforced by the Office for Road and Rail).

The UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU. In 2017 the standardised rate, at 0.52 per 100,000 employees, was one of the lowest of all European countries and compares favourably with other large economies such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland. Similarly, the UK three-year average rate for 2014-2016 (0.53 per 100,000 employees) was the lowest of all EU member states.

Despite long term reductions in the number of workers killed by work activities, each year such cases continue, with 111 such deaths in 2019/20. This number compares with 220 twenty years ago (1999/2000) and 495 in 1981 (prior to 1981 only fatal injury numbers to employees were reported to enforcing authorities).

For a more detailed look at work-related fatal injuries, visit:

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