At first sight, the number of deaths – 35 – may seem a lot and of course it is still unacceptably high, the only ‘good’ number being zero, but taken in the context of previous years, which average at forty-five deaths, this 22% reduction is a remarkable feat and owes a great deal to the increased take-up by employers and employees of training opportunities.

HSE statistics

Statistics can be delivered in various ways and to make things clearer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) use these different methods to show that things really are improving, because of course a lower figure given on its own might not really show the facts. In this case, however, it is borne out by the fact that not only has the raw figure dropped considerably, but the rate per 10,000 workers is also much improved, down to 1.62, down from last year’s rate of 1.98 and a five year average of 2.07. Another interesting detail is that twenty-four employees were killed and eleven self-employed workers. This may not be a completely accurate figure, as there have been recent government papers which suggest that employed and self-employed status in the industry may be hard to quantify. What is in no doubt is that four members of the public were killed as a result of construction activity, which is not included in the figure of thirty five.

Wide-ranging training to cover all eventualities

More worrying is the rise in deaths from mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos has been banned from construction since 1999 but is encountered in renovation, repairs and demolition. In 2013, 2,538 people died from mesothelioma against 2,548 in 2012 and 2,291 in 2011. Although the higher numbers are only significant on a statistical level, it does show that this is still a significant killer, although much lower than coronary heart disease which averages around 73,000 per year. The difference is that mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases are totally preventable through proper asbestos awareness training and many are available for all levels of likely exposure. Other training programmes such as PASMA towers for users course and how to work safely at height (falls still accounting for the majority of deaths and serious injury in construction) as well as specific health and safety courses for using hazardous materials or working in confined spaces are available from Boss Training and many can be delivered in the workplace.

Employers’ responsibilities

It is a condition of employing others that an employer will be responsible for their health and safety – this is actually enshrined in law, so must be complied with. Providing adequate training opportunities is an easy way to make sure that all the workforce has the tools to keep themselves and others safe – thinking back to the four deaths of members of the public, there is a real need for everyone employed in any sector, but particularly construction, to think of others as well as themselves and appropriate training will make sure that this becomes second nature.