Work Injuries and Ill-Health: Notable Statistics and Trends
The Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) annually publishes statistics relating to work related injuries and ill-health related to work. By comparison with other jurisdictions, the HSE notes that the UK:
“… consistently has one of the lowest standardised rates of fatal injury across the EU, lower than other large economies and the EU average. Non-fatal injuries in the UK were at a similar level to other large economies in 2013. Rates of work-related ill health resulting in sick leave were lower than most other EU countries.”
The Numbers: 2019/2020
The Health and Safety at Work: Summary Statistics for Great Britain report, using data for the year ending March 2020, states that there were:
- 6 million cases of work related ill-health (of which, 0.8M related to stress, depression or anxiety); and,
- 7M self-reported non-fatal injury cases (compared to c.65,000 reported cases) and 111 fatal injury cases.
The cost of work related ill-health and injury is estimated to be:
- 8M work days lost (55% due to stress, depression, anxiety, 16% to non-fatal injuries); and,
- £10.6 billion due to work related ill-health and £5.6B due to work related injury (data from 2018 / 2019).
The Numbers: 2020/2021
On 7 July 2021, the HSE published its annual report on Fatal Injuries in the Workplace in Great Britain, for the year ending March 2021 (there is no similar data yet for non-fatal injuries or work related ill-health).
In 2020/2021, 142 workers were killed at work. Those fatalities arose from: falls from a height (35); being struck by a moving vehicle (25); being struck by a moving object (17); being trapped by something collapsing or overturning (14); and, contact with moving machinery (14). More than 50% of fatalities occurred in the Construction and Agriculture / Forestry sectors.
The numbers show a significant percentage increase (35%) on 2019/2020 but the trend continues to demonstrate a marked decline since a peak in 1987. (There was a more modest rise in self-reported workplace non-fatal injuries over the same period.)
Given the increase in ‘home-working’ over the same period, it may be that there is an even more marked increased in the number of accidents at home but the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (‘ROSPA’) has yet to publish any statistics.
Data relating to enforcement action taken by the HSE is available for the year ending March 2020. That is, for the period before the UK lockdown, on 20 March 2020, as a result of the pandemic. Consequently, the numbers are, essentially, unrelated to the closing of many workplaces for that reason.
In 2019/2020, the HSE:
- prosecuted, or referred to COPFS for prosecution in Scotland, 342 cases and achieved convictions in 325 (not broken down by detailed outcomes). That is, a conviction rate of 95% but a 13% decrease in numbers of cases brought from the previous year;
- raised £35.8M in fines; and,
- issued 7,075 Notices.
Those figures are qualified, “Due to the impact of COVID-19, data collection for notices issued by local authorities was not possible for this year’s publication.”
There continues to be a marked decrease in HSE prosecutions from peak in 2015/2016 of 682 prosecutions commenced (resulting in 644 convictions).
The HSE notes that:
“This year has seen a fall in the number of cases prosecuted, continuing the trend from the previous year. The number of notices issued by HSE showed a decrease compared to the previous year, continuing the long-term downward trend in notices issued. The level of fine issued in 2019/20 has decreased compared to the previous year [£55.3M]. The average fine per conviction is significantly lower as well. This was £110,000, compared to £150,000 in 2018/19.”
It remains to be seen whether the return to work will have any significant impact on next year’s figures.