The number of fatalities at work in Britain has dropped by 85% over the past 40 years, from more than 650 every year in 1974 to a record low of 133 today, according to the Health & Safety Executive.

The number of injuries at work has also reduced considerably over the same period, from 336,701 to 78,222, which the HSE says shows the impact of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Also, according to the HSE document ‘Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain 2014’, which features provisional data, there were 42 fatal injuries to workers in construction between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014 – 9% lower than the average figure of 46. The latest rate of fatal injury is 1.98 per 100,000 workers, compared to a five-year average of 2.07.

Mark Harper, Minister of State for Health and Safety, said: “Britain has come an incredibly long way over the past 40 years in protecting its workforce. Our workplace safety record is now the envy of the world, with businesses and governments queuing up to tap into our expertise.

“Any death at work is a death too many, but few can dispute that the reduction in fatalities and injuries over the past 40 years is a significant step forward. Britain is now officially one of the safest places in Europe – and the world – to work.

“So, while we all rightly curse false health and safety excuses, it’s worth thinking how fortunate we are that we can go out to do a hard days’ work, knowing our safety is being taken seriously.”

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, added: “Our health and safety law places responsibility on those who create risk to manage that risk in a proportionate, practical way. It sets standards in terms of outcomes to be achieved, not by straitjacketing dutyholders and business into doing things in a particular way according to prescriptive rules.

"This means that it is universally applicable – regardless of whether you’re farming, fracking for shale gas or working with nano-materials in an ultra high-tech laboratory. The Health and Safety at Work Act may be 40 years old but it – and our regulatory system – are world class.”