The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released provisional data for the year April 2010 to March 2011 that shows the number of construction workers killed was 50, an increase on the previous year, when 41 died.
The rate of fatal injury has increased 26% to 2.4 per 100,000 workers, compared to 1.9 per 100,000 workers in 2009/10. This compares to an average rate of 2.8 for the previous five years.
The HSE, like all public sector organisations, is also facing budget cuts that are expected to lead to a reduction in inspections and enforcement.
George Guy, acting general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: “These latest figures must serve as an urgent wake up call for the government and their policy of cutting safety laws and legislation. This rise in deaths occurred before the government’s cuts kicked in. By slashing the HSE’s budget and the organisation’s effectiveness the government are in reality giving a green light to business to avoid taking safety laws seriously.”
Mr Guy added: “The government’s constant attacks on safety laws are sickening. The simple fact is that in dangerous industries like construction, there aren’t too many regulations. There isn’t too high a level of enforcement. There simply isn’t enough. Every single day workers are facing unnecessary dangers as basic safety laws are ignored.”
HSE chief construction inspector Philip White said: "The construction industry continues to see more deaths than any other industrial sector. We must not lose sight of the fact that 50 construction workers failed to come home last year, and that will have devastated those they leave behind.
"The increase in fatalities is extremely disappointing. However, figures for a single year should not be viewed in isolation. Numbers and rates of fatal injuries in construction have seen an overall downward trend in the last five years.
"HSE will continue to work to reduce the number of fatal accidents, however, it is ultimately the responsibility of those who create health and safety risks to control them and prevent people being killed and injured.
"The majority of deaths continue to be on small construction sites. Big construction companies have shown steady improvements over the last decade, and we want to see smaller firms take a similar lead. This is not about money, it's about mindset - planning jobs properly, thinking before you act and taking basic steps to protect yourself and your friends."
The total number of deaths in all industries increased by 16% from 147 to 171. While construction caused the most fatalities, waste and agriculture industries are more than three times more dangerous to work in.
The rate of fatal injuries in the highest risk key industrial sectors is:
Construction: 50 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded - a rate of 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 61 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 41 deaths (and rate of 1.9) recorded in 2009/10.
Agriculture: 34 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded - a rate of 8.0 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 35 deaths in the past five years and a fall from the 39 deaths (and rate of 10.4) recorded in 2009/10.
Waste and recycling - Nine fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded - a rate of 8.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 8 deaths in the past five years and an increase from the 3 deaths (and rate of 2.8) recorded in 2009/10.