Construction is still failing to meet targets for cutting fatalities and injuries, despite a drop in accident figures, HSE statistics revealed this week.

In its annual accident report, the HSE said 71 construction workers had died over the past year, the same as in 2003/04, with the industry accounting for about one-third of all work-related deaths. The rate of fatal and serious injuries fell 24%, missing a target of 40%. However, it has probably met the target that the HSE set for UK industry in general.

Stephen Williams, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction, said: “I am pleased to see the encouraging signs that the industry has taken ownership of its health and safety performance and worked hard to achieve the lowest incidence rate ever for fatal and ‘over-three-day’ injuries.

“However, each death is still one too many and simple measures could have prevented them. I want to see an industry that gets health and safety right first time, right from the start and with the right people involved.”

Falls remained the most common cause of accident in the industry, accounting for 28% of serious injuries.

Slips and trips accounted for 25%, and handling, lifting and carrying were the causes of 15% of serious injuries.

Williams also called on the industry to improve its performance in addressing occupational health. He said: “Work-related ill health affects a significant number of construction workers. The sector has one of the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders and needs to control the risks to its workers more effectively.”

An investigation by the Greater London Assembly has found that construction is the most dangerous job in the capital. The health and public services committee found it accounted for half of fatal injuries at work.