No deaths in Sheffield workplaces last year, figures reveal

Workplaces in Sheffield did not record a single death last year, figures show, as a leading union called for safety statistics to take deaths caused by work-related illness into account.

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 1:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 1:51 pm

The Health and Safety Executive said International Workers’ Memorial Day, which is marked on April 28, is a key moment to remember the almost-150 workers who died doing their jobs across Britain in 2018-19.

But the Trades Union congress has predicted the coronavirus pandemic will cause a spike in workplace fatalities, as it emphasised the “vital” need to record any deaths caused by a lack of personal protective equipment as work-related.

However, HSE statistics show Sheffield was one of more than half of British local authorities that recorded at least one death over the last five years not to have any employees or members of the public die in a workplace in 2018-19.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sheffield City Centre

With two deaths the year before, it means the area has had nine fatalities in the last five years.

The 147 workers who died in British workplaces is an increase of 4% on the year before, but safety campaigners the Hazards Campaign estimate the true number of work-related deaths each year to be 50,000 once illnesses caused by working conditions and suicides attributed to work-related stress are included.

There were also 92 members of the public who were killed due to work-related activities in 2018-19, bringing the total figure to 239 for the second year in a row.

Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, said: "To reduce work-related deaths, we need to start with better official statistics that do not underestimate annual fatalities.

“Without accurate information, it is harder to target the areas where new health and safety policy, or stronger enforcement is needed.

"Sadly the next annual statistics will be much higher, due to the coronavirus. It is vital that all fatalities that followed workplace safety failures, such as lack of personal protective equipment, are reported as work-related deaths.

“If the true impact is not acknowledged, important actions may not be taken to be better prepare workplaces for future pandemics."

The average annual number of people killed at British workplaces since 2014-15 is 142, with construction the most dangerous industry.

But last year saw a record low 30 workers die in the industry, meaning it was actually surpassed by agriculture, forestry and fishing, with 32.

But at a rate of 0.53 deaths per 100,000 workers across the UK, the country is behind only Cyprus in the EU for workplace safety, according to the statistical body Eurostat.

An HSE spokeswoman said it is too early to say how significantly work-related fatality rates will be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but paid tribute to the frontline healthcare workers who are taking on additional risk during this time.

She added: "We are continually reviewing the fast-moving situation with our partners across government to support the national effort to tackle coronavirus. We understand this is an extremely worrying time for firms and workers.

“International Workers’ Memorial Day is a key moment for our organisation to recognise those who died doing their jobs, and has always reminded us of our purpose."