UK construction workers 100 times more likely to die from work-related illness than accidents

24 May by Rayner Mason


In construction health and safety we are always aware of site related safety issues; working at heights, high risk machinery and heavy plant.  We are less aware of exposure to hazardous substances, such as asbestos, brick dust and silica, and the corrosive affect they can have on a person’s health.

Following the shocking statistic that UK construction workers are 100 times more likely to die from work-related ill health than accidents, over 150 leaders responsible for Health and Safety in the UK construction industry signed a charter at the beginning of 2016 in a bid to affect a cultural change in the way health and safety is approached within the UK construction industry.

The Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) has the mission to “unite the construction industry and make it the leading industry for occupational health and disease prevention by 2025.” 

In order to achieve this ambitious target the group are looking to for a cultural shift within the sector and highlight the importance of safety standards particularly pertaining to respiratory diseases.

In the construction sector there were 35 fatal accidents during 2014/15. In the same period it is estimated that around 4,000 construction workers died from cancer caused by their exposure to hazardous substances while at work.

The majority of these cases are lung diseases caused by exposure to asbestos (2,600 deaths) and silica (600 deaths).

In the same period around 3,000 workers in the construction sector were suffering with breathing and lung problems they believed were caused or made worse by their work, a rate significantly higher than the average across all industries.

20% of workers identified ‘dusts from stone, cement, bricks or concrete’ as a contributing factor.

The HCLG would like to replicate the same cultural shift that has led to an 80% reduction in workplace fatalities over the last 40 years.


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