John Spanswick says 77 site deaths over last year is 'distressing and unacceptable'

Construction fatalities have hit their highest rate for five years, according to official Health and Safety Executive figures released today.

There were 77 fatal injuries in the year 2006/2007, equivalent to a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers. Last year, there were 60 deaths at a far lower rate of 3.0 per 100,000. This represents a 28% rise since last year.

Memorial to construction workers at Tower Hill
Building Worker statue commemerates those killed in construction

The figure represents the highest number of fatalities since 2001/2002, when 80 workers lost their lives at a rate of 3.8% per 100,000.

The number of self-employed workers killed has leapt from 17 last year to 27 this year, while full-time employees’ fatalities went from 43 last year to 50 in 2006/2007. In addition, seven members of the public lost their lives on construction sites.

Work-based deaths rose as a whole from 217 last year to 241 in 2006/7, but HSE chiefs admitted the largest consideration to the increase in fatalities was in construction.

John Spanswick, Health and Safety Commissioner, said: “This year’s annual statistics are distressing and, as far as I’m concerned, unacceptable. It’s about cultural behaviour in our industry. It’s just unacceptable to let some of the practices that have been allowed to flourish in our industry to continue.”

Spanswick highlighted three actions that the industry needed to follow to help improve its record:

  • Ensuring a qualified workforce through official accreditation
  • Working with designers to look at safety issues at the design stage
  • Sharing near-misses with other industry stake-holders

Many of the fatalities are in the house-building and refurbishment sector. Work and pensions secretary Peter Hain hopes to address this by setting up an industry forum on health and safety, which will meet in September.