According to the latest provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive the number of construction deaths rose to 50 last year, up from 41 the year before.
Despite falling workloads there is now mounting concern that the industry’s safety record is starting to slide in the downturn.
Big sites have maintained better safety records but smaller sites were still a problem warned the HSE’s chief construction inspector.
The construction death toll equates to a rate of 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to a rate of 1.9 recorded in 2009/10.
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.”
White said that while the increase was extremely disappointing, the figures for a single year should not be viewed in isolation.
He added that numbers and rates of fatal injuries in construction have seen an overall downward trend in the last five years where the average figure in 61. But this includes 2006/07, a dreadful year when 79 workers were killed.
“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.”
He added: “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 figures have prompted a demand from construction union Ucatt for a rethink on safety funding cuts.
Acting general secretary George Guy 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.”