The number of construction workers killed on site in the first quarter of 2003/4 has raised fears of an increase in the total figure for the year
According to figures published this week by the Health and Safety Executive, 27 workers have died on site since April. If this rate were to continue, the total figure for 2003/4 could top 100.

Apart from the human tragedy, this would be a serious reverse for the government, contractors and the HSE, all of whom have staked their reputations on reducing accidents on site.

It would also reverse a three-year downward trend in death rates – there were 71 fatalities in 2002/3 and 80 in 2001/2.

The HSE figures show that, in recent years, the probability of an individual suffering a fatal accident has fallen. The number of fatal injuries per 100,000 workers fell from 4.4 in 2001/2 to 4 in 2002/3.

Kevin Myers, the HSE's chief inspector for construction, said that the reduction in deaths from last year was encouraging, but warned against complacency.

He said: "It is too early to assess whether the recent deaths indicate a reversal of the overall downward trend in the past three years. But the early figures for the current year are a stark reminder that a sustained effort is required across and down the industry over a long period to drive the necessary cultural change."

Myers said the statistics indicated that the industry was still struggling to deal with falls from height, which account for 47% of deaths.

In September, the HSE will start the next phase of its Don't Fall For It inspection campaign. Inspectors plan to visit 1450 sites to check if awareness of the dangers of falls has improved since its blitz in May. During that inspection, the HSE closed a quarter of the sites visited.

Updated figures for major injury and for less significant "three-day injuries" will be published later this year.