Seventy-two workers died in the construction industry in the past year, the highest number for three years, according to a report revealed this week.

The figure was revealed in the Health and Safety Executive’s final calculation of industry fatalities in the year to April 2005. It is one higher than the previous year’s total of 71. However, because of a continued rise in employment, the rate of fatalities per hundred workers fell 3%.

Rosi Edwards, the HSE’s acting chief inspector for construction, said the toll was unacceptable, and pledged the support of the HSE to drive through safety reform.

She said: “We can take some encouragement from the continuing decrease in the rate of fatalities, but the fact remains that 72 workers were killed in incidents, most of which could have been prevented with sensible risk control. This is unacceptably high – every fatality is one too many.

HSE will continue to work with the industry to gain improvements in the management of health and safety in order to reduce deaths, injuries and ill health caused by work.”

As the statistics were released, companies from the Major Homebuilders Group pledged to employ a fully CSCS-qualified workforce by 2010 in a bid to improve health and safety and competency standards.

The 12 companies, which include Bovis Homes, George Wimpey and Barratt, will write to subcontractors informing them that their operatives must hold a CSCS card by December 2007.