Latest statistics show £3 billion cost to businesses of workplace injury and ill health.
It’s that time of year when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) release the latest Health and Safety At Work statistics. As businesses and health and safety professionals analyse the 2018/19 data, it’s a good time to review where progress is being made in workplace health and safety, and where further improvements are needed.
Health and Safety at Work Statistics 2019
What are the headlines?
As always there are a few statistics that create the headlines. HSE pulled out the following key points in their review of the latest available data:
What is contributing most to workplace ill health?
The highest contributor to the 1.4 million workers who self-reported cases of ill health per year is work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Whilst overall work-related ill health showed a slight downward trend, work-related stress, depression or anxiety is increasing. With over 600,000 new and existing cases reported in 2018/19, it now accounts for 54% of all work-related ill health cases. Musculoskeletal disorders are the second largest contributor.
Is an increase in understanding of mental health having an impact on the number of workplace mental health cases reported?
In recent years conversations around mental health have been increasing within society as a whole. Data shows 11.4% of the NHS Wales 2017/18 budget is spent on mental health services, the largest spending category. In England it accounts for 13.8%. However, this isn’t simply a health service challenge. Employers have begun to grasp the need to think beyond the physical health of their employees. Many organisations now proactively discuss the topic of mental wellbeing with their workforce. Businesses are also implementing support structures to help those in need, including mental health first aiders. Greater understanding is likely to increase the number of reported cases, as people feel less stigma to opening up about their mental health challenges and asking for help and support.
Are there any areas which have shown improvements?
While many of the headline statistics have remained constant there have been areas of improvement. There has been a 2.6% year-on-year (YOY) reduction in non-fatal injuries to employees. This was driven by a decrease in slips, trips or falls and handling, lifting or carrying injuries. The new data showed an 8.1% YOY reduction in working days lost due to work-related ill-health (-12.3% YOY) and non-fatal workplace injuries (+20.5% YOY). The reduction in work-related ill health was driven by a -16.9% YOY reduction in working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The increase in the number of working days lost due to non-fatal workplace injury is an indicator of the increase in severity of some injury cases.
Which industries are driving change?
Human health and social work activities, public administration/defence and education all continue to have significantly higher rates of work-related ill health versus the all-industry average of 3,190 per 100,000 workers. This is driven predominantly by stress, depression or anxiety. Agriculture, forestry and fishing has seen a reduction in the rate of work-related ill health, bringing it in line with the average. An increase for administrative and support service activities has seen them fall within the average, where previously they were statistically below. Workplace injury rates have remained broadly stable at an industry level.
What are the costs of work-related ill health and injury?
The £15.0 billion cost of work-related ill health and injury is split between costs to individuals (£8.6bn / 57%), the Government (£3.4bn / 23%) and to employers (£3.0bn / 20%). The costs include both financial and human costs. Work-related ill health accounts for 65% of the costs and the remaining 35% for work-related injury. With the costs to all parties there is a clear argument for investing in prevention of work-related ill health and workplace injury.
How do the UK health and safety at work statistics compare to other countries?
Comparing the UK figures to other European countries shows how strong the health and safety provision is in the UK. When considering fatal injuries, the UK records just 0.5 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers, 0.5 too many, but significantly better than other countries. At the other end of the scale France, Spain and the EU28 record 3.5, 1.5 and 1.2 workers per 100,000 workers respectively. Rates for work-related ill health and workplace injury are also low in comparison with other European countries, with only Poland coming in lower for work-related injuries.
In summary, with 147 fatalities and 2 million self-reported cases of workplace injury and work-related ill health, the latest HSE statistics show there is a significant opportunity to make improvements to the health and safety practices in UK workplaces. Reducing incidents of workplace injury and ill health should be a key performance indicator for businesses. All levels of the organisation need to be fully engaged in delivering improvements and the appropriate processes, training and measurements in place for good health and safety practices.
What Can Businesses Learn From The National & Industry-Level Statistics?
The latest national- and industry-level figures offer the opportunity to understand the trends in health and safety at work, but how do they relate to your business? While the aim will always be to have zero workplace injury and ill health, it is necessary to continue to identify and mitigate risks that the workplace poses for your workforce.
Firstly, these new statistics can be used to compare with your own health and safety record. Which areas is your business managing well? Which areas should be targeted for improvement? For example, are you also seeing increasing cases of ill health due to stress, depression or anxiety? Do workers feel able to raise mental health challenges? What measures are already in place to support workers? What further support might be needed?
Secondly, armed with these new figures, it is a good time to review your health and safety procedures to implement changes to improvement areas. Finally, conducting a health and safety training audit and integrating any procedural changes from the review, is useful to engage teams with the improvement focus. Here’s to some significant improvements in the 2019/20 national statistics and to your business not contributing to them at all.
Sure Safety Consultancy delivers trusted advice, training and consultancy on workplace health, safety and fire. With decades of experience our team is equipped to deliver a fit for purpose health and safety solution for your business. If you would like to hear more about our services, please contact us by email or call us on 029 2086 8802.