Work at height industry responds to shocking increase in workplace deaths

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  Posted by: electime      5th July 2024

More people are being killed at work now after suffering a fall from height than in the last 17 years, according to the latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Access Industry Forum (AIF), who represent the principal work at height trade associations and federations, reports that just-released HSE statistics on work-related fatal injuries show that shockingly, 50 workers died due to a fall from height in 2023/24 in Great Britain – an increase of 22 per cent from 2022/23 which saw 41 deaths.

The last time the number of fatal falls from height was greater, was back in 2007/08 when the figure was 58. Since then, the number of fall from height fatalities has shown no improvement, seemingly reducing for a year or two, only for the number to sadly rise again. The 2023/24 figure for fatal falls from height now sits at an unacceptable 35 per cent above the 5-year average of 37 per cent.

Despite advances in height safety, ongoing campaigning and increasing awareness of the risks of working at height, falls from height remain the leading cause of workplace fatalities in Great Britain, accounting for 36 per cent of the 138 fatalities last year. Even more concerning is that the proportion of falls from height has continued to increase over recent years (25 per cent in 2021/22, rising to 30 per cent in 2022/23).

While there has been a worrying increase of fatalities to workers over the last 10 years (369 people have died since 2014, enough to fill a jumbo jet), of particular concern is the 44 per cent increase in fall from height fatalities for the self-employed since last year (18 deaths in 2022/23 rising to 26 deaths in 2023/24). This is the first time in 5 years that the number of fatal injuries to the self-employed exceeds those of employees, and the highest number of self-employed fatalities in over 20 years.

We must ask ourselves why. Research undertaken previously by the AIF found that limited data collected on the circumstances surrounding accidents, coupled with a problematic reporting system, make it difficult to pinpoint the underlying causes of falls from height and identify whether they are related to issues such as faulty equipment, lack of training, or negligence.

The AIF is therefore renewing its call for a simplified system of reporting to more accurately reflect the cause of workplace accidents so that informed, preventative measures can be implemented to address the cause of fall from height incidents.

Peter Bennett OBE, Chair of the AIF and No Falls Foundation, the only charity in the UK dedicated to preventing falls from height and supporting those affected by falls from height, said: “The latest HSE fatal injury figures paint an overwhelmingly bleak picture. It’s clear something isn’t working. Most falls from height are avoidable, but only if we can understand what’s causing them in the first place.

“Very little information is provided on the circumstance around fatal (and non-fatal) incidents, with current reporting focused on the type of incident as opposed to what caused it in the first place. This needs to change if we are to tackle the worsening issue of workers being killed, and the number of people who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height.

“In our Manifesto, supported by the No Falls Foundation, our clear ask of the next government is to introduce a simple, more effective system of accident reporting so that we can identify and tackle the root causes of falls from height. We’re also asking MPs to show their commitment to preventing falls from height by pledging their support for the re-establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height and its important role in progressing our manifesto.

“We know that working at height can be dangerous, but we should be able to put appropriate and robust measures in place to make it safer. Too many people are being killed at work after falling from height. It’s unacceptable and now more than ever, it’s time for change.”