HSE figures show that more workers are seriously injured on building sites than anywhere else

Employees in the building industry are still more likely to be seriously injured at work than those in any other sector, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Between March 2006 and March 2007, there were 295 major non-fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time construction employees, compared with 247 in mining and utilities and 191 in agriculture.

The figure for construction has dropped 4% from the previous year, when 308 injuries were recorded per 100,000 operatives.

Of the total of 3,711 serious injuries, 987, or just over a quarter, were caused by falls from height. A similar number of accidents, 988, were trips, slips or falls from the same height.

The data also revealed that deaths from asbestosis rose steadily between 2000 and 2005, with numbers in 2005 hitting 134, a third more than the previous year.

There were also more than 2,000 deaths from mesothelioma, a lung cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma-related deaths are expected to peak at about 2,450 a year between 2011 and 2015 as workers exposed during the sixties and seventies develop the disease.

The predicted rise comes two weeks after law lords ended a 20-year right to compensation for pleural plaques, a fibrosis of the lung that indicates the presence of asbestos.

The HSE revealed a five-year peak in on-site fatalities in July, with 77 deaths in 2006/07. Agriculture and construction together accounted for almost half of all workplace deaths.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of the Ucatt union, said rates of injury needed to come down: “Although limited progress has been made, the overall figures are far too high. Far greater efforts need to be made to stop people being killed or maimed at work.”

Rob Miguel, health and safety officer for the Unite union, said the HSE needed more funding to combat the problems.

“It’s fairly obvious that the trade unions and employers need to work together, but at the end of the day there’s got to be more enforcement from the HSE.”

The HSE will launch a blitz on the refurbishment and new-build housing sectors early next year.

Major non-fatal injuries by industrial sector