Provisional statistics for the year 2000-01 indicate a 34 percent increase in fatalities among Britain''s workers, with 295 deaths compared to 220 in 1999.
This represents an increase in the rate of fatal injuries from 0.8 to 1.1 per 100,000 workers.
Over the same period, the number of reported non-fatal major injuries to workers fell by 4.7 percent, from 29,315 to 27,935 -- with the employee rate falling by 5.4 percent, to 110.3 per 100,000 employees.
The figures show that of the 295 fatalities, 106 occurred in the construction industry and 46 in agriculture.
In terms of types of fatality, 73 deaths were caused by falls from heights, 64 from moving vehicles, 52 from falling and moving objects, and 37 by objects collapsing or overturning.
"We are greatly concerned at the increase in fatalities during 2000-01 -- which goes against the downward trend of recent years -- and are taking firm action to encourage sustainable improvement," said Bill Callaghan, chairman of the UK''s Health and Safety Commission. "The fact remains that most of these fatalities were preventable. Every organization needs to put health and safety at the head of its agenda. Responsibility starts at the top."
Callaghan pointed out the deaths in the construction industry, where on average there are two deaths every week and the fatality rate of six per every 100,000 workers is now the highest it has been for 10 years.
"Because of this, the Deputy Prime Minister and I held a summit with the industry and stakeholders are now committed to taking positive steps to bring down this unacceptable toll."
Commenting on the continuing downward trend in reported major injuries across most sectors, including construction, agriculture and manufacturing.
"It is good to see that non-fatal injury rates continue to decline, but I do not see this as a cause for complacency," said Callaghan. "In particular, I am concerned by the possibility that this may indicate -- at least in part -- an increase in under-reporting, something we will be taking a close look at."
The 2000-01 provisional statistics are subject to final adjustments and the final figures will be confirmed in the Health and Safety Commission''s annual report and statistics, which will be published in October.
by Virginia Foran