Figures published last week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that although Britain is of the safest places in Europe to work, too many workers are still being injured or made ill by work.
The statistics show that an estimated 23.5 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and 4.7 million days due to workplace injury in 2013 to 2014. The HSE estimates that the cost to society was about £14.2 billion in 2012 to 2013 (based on 2012 prices).
In terms of injuries, the HSE reported that 133 workers were killed at work (down from 150 the previous year). This equates to a rate of 0.44 fatalities per 100,000 workers compared to an average rate of 0.56 for the previous five years.
Almost 78,000 other injuries were reported under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), a rate of 304.6 per 100,000 employees. According to the Labour Force Survey, there were 629,000 injuries at work of which almost 150,000 led to an absence of over seven days.
In terms of ill health, 1.2 million people who worked during the last year were suffering
from an illness (long-standing as well as new cases) they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work. Of these, 0.5 million were new conditions which started during the year.
A further 0.8 million former workers (who last worked over 12 months ago) were suffering from an illness which was caused or made worse by their past work. Over 2500 people died from mesothelioma in 2012 and thousands more from other occupational cancers and diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Across Great Britain, 674 cases were prosecuted for health and safety breaches in 2013 to 2014 leading to 636 convictions. Of those 674 cases, HSE prosecuted 551 cases in England and Wales, representing a decrease of 5 per cent on the previous year. Local authorities prosecuted 88 cases in England and Wales, a decrease of 16 per cent from the previous year. In Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal heard 35 cases, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year.
TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Illness or injury caused by work not only leads to absence, it also leaves people suffering pain, disability and financial loss. Yet workplace illness and injury is preventable. The main responsibility lies with employers, but the government has the duty for enforcement to bring rogue bosses back into line”.
Simon Dewsbury at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “These deeply concerning figures are a clear indication of how this Government’s concerted attempt to roll back health and safety provisions for working people is having devastating consequences.
“It is especially ironic that as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Tory-led Government are doing everything they can to take the UK back to a Victorian era of workplace safety through removing the right of injured workers to claim compensation for their employers’ breaches of statutory duty.”
You can view the HSE statistics in full here.