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Assessing risk in engineering, work and life
Assessing risk in engineering, work and life

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1.2 Evaluating risk

Sadly, workplace fatalities and injuries happen far too often. Taking the UK in the year April 2016 to March 2017 as an example, according to data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), across all industries 137 people died as a result of their work. Furthermore, 92 members of the public were fatally injured in accidents connected to work (HSE, 2016). These fatalities are broken down by sector in Table 1. Many of these deaths occurred in sectors where the main activities can be described as engineering, or in areas employing large numbers of engineering professionals. This shows that the importance of assessing and working to reduce risks is a vital part of the work of all engineers that cannot be overstated.

This table raises the questions of how professionals, policymakers and the public evaluate risk in a particular industry, and how it can be decided what is ‘risky’ to a particular individual.

Table 1 UK work-related fatal injuries, April 2016 to March 2017
Main industrial sectorWorkers
TotalPer 100 000 employees
Mining and quarrying4a
Gas, electricity and water supply3a
Waste management and recycling1412.69
(Source: data taken from HSE, 2017)


Notes: a Not calculated because employment estimates are too small or otherwise too unreliable to produce meaningful statistics.