Infographic: Services sector records highest deaths at work in UK last year


The latest figures for occupational fatalities in the UK, while inevitably distressing, make instructive reading.

Infographic: Fatal Accidents at Work 2012-2013

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Contrary to what we might think, on the surface it seems that more workers in the service category died than those in construction and manufacturing. However, the modern world has seen the services (or tertiary) sector grow as traditional 'smokestack' industries have declined.

Not unnaturally, this means that in Britain today the services sector is not only the fastest-growing part of the economy, but also the largest. In other words, it now employs more than any other type of worker.

'Services' is defined as that economic area which produces intangible goods. But clearly this doesn't mean just IT consultants, accountants and call-centre workers.

Physical work

In fact, there are plenty of genuinely 'physical' jobs in the services sector, according to Adrian Fawden, a specialist in occupational injury at Simpson Millar LLP. "These include many of the tasks undertaken by firms concerned with waste-management, transportation and warehousing," Adrian said.

"These are occupations which can involve physical work or the handling of potentially hazardous materials. Some might combine the two, and all are characterised by the varying degrees of daily risk faced by their participants."

In light of this, it's perhaps unsurprising that the UK's highest volume of fatalities following accidents at work in 2012-13 were in the services sector.

As you can see from the infographic, 148 workers were fatally injured in the last year, reflecting a fatality rate of 0.5 deaths per 100,000 employees. Of these, the services sector accounted for 46, or some 32% of the total.

Waste industry deaths doubled

While overall fatalities were down – in 2011-12 the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recorded a total of 172 – the number of deaths in the waste and recycling industry were double those of the previous year.

In 2012/13, 10 workers died in this key part of the services sector. This compares to 5 in 2011/12 and reflects a rate of 8.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Over the previous 5 years, the average was 6 deaths per 100,000.

Graeme Walker, who specialises in Waste and Recycling for the HSE, said that the rise in the number of waste workers' deaths last year was "extremely disappointing" and ought to "spur on the industry to make a concerted effort to bring about sustained improved performance".

"Although it is fair to say the number of deaths has fluctuated greatly year on year over the last 5 years, the industry needs to make a concerted effort to end that cycle of yearly variations and bring about sustained improved performance year-on-year," Mr Walker said.

Adrian Fawden agrees. "Clearly these figures show that waste management and recycling companies have work to do if we want to see a significant decrease in occupational deaths," Adrian said.

"Even though the UK continues to record the lowest rate of workers' deaths in Europe, the fact that the waste sector alone failed to prevent a doubling of its total fatalities in a single year is extremely worrying."

A copy of the full HSE report can be downloaded from their website: Fatal Accident Report.

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