The Health & Safety Executive has published the latest annual health and safety statistics for Great Britain showing that there were 1.8 million work-related ill-health cases (new or long-standing) in 2021-22.
There were also 0.9 million work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases and 0.5 million work-related musculoskeletal disorder cases in 2021-22.
The statistics also show that 36.8 million working days were lost through work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injury in 2021/22. There were also 0.6 million workers who sustained a non-fatal injury in 2021-22.
Around 0.1 million workers were suffering from Covid-19, which is believed to have been from exposure to coronavirus at work. There were also 0.6 million workers suffering from a work-related illness caused or made worse by the effects of the pandemic.
The above estimates were based on self-reports from the Labour Force Survey on people who worked in the past 12 months.
The annual costs of work-related injury and new cases of ill health in 2019/20 – excluding long-latency illnesses like cancer – were £18.8 billion. The annual cost of new cases of ill health in 2019/2020, again excluding conditions such as cancer, was £11.2 billion, shows the new data. The annual cost of work-related injury in 2019/20 was £7.6 billion. These costs were based on estimates of the HSE model.
Additionally, the figures show that there were 12,000 deaths from lung disease linked to past exposures at work. There were 123 deaths of workers in work-related accidents in 2021-22.
Nick Wilson, director of health and safety services at WorkNest, said: “It’s interesting to see that new cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety have fallen over the past year. This is somewhat surprising, given the various stressors people are facing at present, though, of course, not all of these are work-related. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that, overall, cases have increased by 11.2%, and we now know that 17.0 million working days were lost as a result – emphasising that this should remain a key area of focus for employers, not only for their staff’s sake but for the sake of business productivity too.
“The fact that 60% of this total cost comes from ill health is worth noting, as employers often devote their health and safety efforts to accident reduction, when in fact, it’s ill health that stands to cost them more.
“Of course, a big part of this cost comes from absences. The report shows that 1% of injuries and 3.3% of ill-health cases result in time off work. Again, ill health seems to be the bigger problem to tackle; while injuries are now slightly less likely to result in time off than they were in 2013 (back then, 1.4% of cases led to time off work), the number of ill-health cases that require time off has crept up in the past decade (from 1.9%).
“Despite many organisations maintaining some sort of hybrid working model, working practices have largely returned to normal, and many people are now back at work with fewer Covid-19 precautions in place. The HSE’s new stats are a stark reminder that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, and while figures suggest that the winter wave has already peaked, employers must continue to take reasonably practicable measures to reduce this risk.
“While the number of injuries to workers is lower than pre-pandemic levels, it’s disappointing that the decrease we saw last year hasn’t been maintained. The fact that this year’s figure has shot back up also suggests that the perceived improvements noted in last year’s report may have simply been down to the pandemic and fewer people working rather than any real improvement in workplace health and safety.
“Some might say a rise in injuries was inevitable given the wider return to work, but it’s important that employers don’t become complacent. Covid-19 put health and safety firmly on the agenda, and it must continue to be a priority now that the immediate threat of the pandemic has subsided. To drive down the numbers further, employers should focus on the suitability of their risk assessments, particularly as many won’t have revisited them since reopening.
“More worryingly, however, is the rise we’re seeing in workplace ill health compared with pre-pandemic levels. Employers must recognise that ill health, including stress and anxiety that may be caused or aggravated by work, is considered alongside all the traditional workplace hazards we are accustomed to tackling.”