The number of construction workers killed at work has fallen by a fifth in the past year, according to official figures from the Health and Safety Executive.
A total of 41 construction workers died at work in the 12 months to April 2010 compared with 52 in 2008/09. This marks a significant drop on the average of 66 deaths per year over the past five years.
But despite the fall, the rate of fatal injuries in the sector was 2.0 per 100,000 workers, leaving it still among the most dangerous industries in which to work.
Of the 41 construction workers killed, 29 were employees and 12 were self-employed, while four members of the public were also killed in accidents relating to work in the sector.
The figures are six higher than were estimated using rolling HSE data in May, with some cases having been subject to investigation and others recategorised.
HSE chief inspector of construction Philip White said: “Construction continues to be one of the most dangerous industries in Great Britain, and employers and workers must continue to take an uncompromising approach to safety.
“It’s too soon to say that the decrease in fatalities is down to any particular reason, but it is imperative that as the economy recovers, health and safety is seen as a priority - we know from past experience that economic recoveries tend to lead to an increase in worker deaths.”
Construction union Ucatt also voiced concerns that construction-related deaths could rise as the industry recovers from recession.
Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “The reduction is primarily due to the economic downturn, which has not only meant fewer people working on construction sites but has also reduced time pressures, working hours and the number of inexperienced workers on site, all of which are major factors in accidents.
“The challenge is to ensure that the number of deaths continues to be reduced as the industry recovers. Rather than looking to reduce safety provisions, the Government should be ensuring workers are safe by increasing the number of inspections and enforcement activity.”
The union also expressed fears that Lord Young’s current review of safety regulations could lead to a weakening of safety standards.
Construction News revealed in May that the number of deaths then stood at 35.
The figures failed to include the death of 53-year-old painter Ray Jessop, who worked for Kier Building Maintenance and died after falling from a ladder while painting a house.
They also did not include Stuart Meakin, who died laying gas pipes in Wiltshire in July 2009. For these fatalities, the industry was listed as ‘services’ rather than construction and it is not thought they have been included in the final construction statistics.