TOUGHER safety regulations and increased public awareness appear to be paying dividends for workers. The Labour Department has revealed an almost 40 per cent drop in the number of industrial accident injuries. Statistics published yesterday show 21,696 injuries up to the end of September, compared with 35,640 injuries in the same period in 1993. There were 54 deaths, 25 per cent fewer than the 73 a year ago. Secretary for Works James Blake, who will reveal more details today at a year-end review, welcomed the dramatic improvement in the construction industry, where deaths and injuries decreased by almost 36 per cent. This was despite the number of workers employed on construction sites having risen by 15 per cent last year. But Mr Blake said the level of deaths was still unacceptably high. 'Analysis of the results shows 80 per cent of fatalities were due to falls or falling objects. This shows a reckless lack of care on the part of the victims or those involved in the accident,' he said. Workers must be made more aware of their surroundings. They should use safety equipment when working at heights and take care not to dislodge safety boards or drop objects over the side of buildings. The Labour Department said 41 construction workers died and 8,032 were injured in the first three quarters, compared with 65 deaths and 12,494 injuries in 1993. 'Provisional figures show about 50 construction workers died [in the whole year],' said deputy chief factory inspector Tse Ming-sing. This would be a 37 per cent fall over 1993 when 80 building workers were killed. The Assistant Commissioner for Labour, Mak Sai-yiu, said harsher penalties and more inspectors, coupled with safety initiatives by the Government and the Hong Kong Construction Association, had helped reduce accidents. In the past year, fines for serious contraventions of site safety regulations have quadrupled to $200,000. Construction lawyer and safety campaigner David Bateson said the figures were 'encouraging' but would not dramatically improve until workers, contractors, architects, engineers and clients accepted responsibility for safety. A dramatic change in philosophy was needed before accidents fell to acceptable Western levels.