Fatal accidents in the workplace have fallen considerably with a a big drop in fatal injuries at work since 1981.
Before then, not all industries were required to report workplace injuries, so the data is patchy. But in the industries that did have to report, deaths fell sharply in the 1970s too.
In the year 1986-87 there were 407 fatal accidents in workplaces around Britain. Three decades later the figure had fallen by two-thirds.
The size of the workforce has increased a lot in that time, so if we look at the death rate per 100,000 workers, the improvement is even greater.
This is largely because of Britain’s transformation from an industrial economy to a service-based one. Clearly people working in factories and heavy industry are more at risk of fatal accidents than office workers.
Coal mining and steel used to be big killers but now employ very few people in the UK. On 2 February it was announced that Eggborough power station in Yorkshire is to close, leaving only a handful of coal-fired stations in the UK.
A pit official at Sutton Colliery near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, checks on a trunk conveyor at the coal face. Image copyright PA
But these days the figures may be underreported, says Noel Whiteside, a public policy expert at the University of Warwick.
The number of self-employed people is rising rapidly, making incidents harder to track. If a contractor is killed in a car crash on the way to a job, or has a heart attack while working from home, that would not count as a death in the workplace, she points out.
There are other reasons to temper optimism with caution.
Although workplaces are safer now, people generally work longer hours, and it is hard to measure the effects of health problems brought about by overwork. “I don’t think white-collar work was nearly as stressful 40 years ago,” Whiteside says.
Improvements in general health levels are one reason for a decline in workplace deaths, but “there are some signs in the last two years that life expectancy has started to fall,” says Whiteside.