- Nick Elvin
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual statistics report for Great Britain that highlights the dangers in the nation’s workplaces, including illnesses contracted, injuries sustained, the working days that are lost and the economic cost to the UK.
According to the figures, more than 1.2 million people were suffering with some form of illness during the last year, with just over half a million of those employees developing a new ailment during that time. Another 800,000 people that had already been out of work for more than a year, were also ill due to a past employment.
About 184,000 (34%) of the newly-acquired illnesses were musculoskeletal in nature, while almost 46% were related to stress, depression or anxiety.
Serious, long-term and potentially fatal illnesses also still figure in the research. There are about 8,000 occupational cancer deaths each year. More than half of these deaths are caused by previous workplace exposure to asbestos that led to either lung cancer or mesothelioma. Close to 2,500 people die from mesothelioma each year and these fatalities are expected to peak in 2017 before seeing a steady decline.
Hundreds more lung cancers were also named as having been caused by inhaling substances such as silica, mineral oils and diesel exhaust fumes. However, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is still the single biggest killer among industrial diseases, with around 4,000 deaths caused by long-term exposure to fumes, gases, dust or vapours.
The HSE study also examines workplace fatalities, with 133 deadly injuries recorded so far for 2013-14. Employees suffer fatal accidents in construction, agriculture or waste and recycling industries more than any others. 77,593 non-fatal injuries were also reported. Slips and trips were the most common kind of accident (28%), followed by those incurred while handling, lifting or carrying (24%), while another ten per cent were due to being hit by moving objects.
Despite these figures, the UK’s health and safety performance is equal to, or in most cases, superior to that of 27 other European countries in terms of injuries, fatalities and work-related illness recorded.
28.2 million working days were lost due to injury and illness from 2013-14, of which 23.5 million were because of illness and 4.7 million were due to injury. The average time lost per case of injury or illness is just over 15 days.
Although new figures for the economic cost have not been released, statistics from 2012-13 estimated that £14.2 billion pounds in productivity were lost. This figure is fairly typical of recent years and has levelled off after reaching £16.5 billion during 2006-07.
Emma Simcox-Oliver, head of the industrial disease department at Asons Solicitors, said: “Whilst it is comforting to see that comparatively the UK fares well against its European counterparts, the massive increase in stress, depression and anxiety claims at 46% is shocking but clearly demonstrative of ever increasing pressures within modern working lives.
“This figure will continue a steep incline until such time as employers begin to take seriously their liability and duty of care to safeguard employees mental health.”