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Published 13 December 2018
As we begin to approach the end of 2018, it is that time of year again when everyone begins to feel festive and the HSE release their annual statistics on Great Britain's work force injuries and ill-health. This article will focus on this year's statistics which appear to continue to support the HSE's 3 year Health and Work Programme which focuses on the reduction of the levels of work related stress, MSDs and lung disease as well as their 2017/18 Business Plan to focus on the agriculture, manufacturing and asbestos removal sectors.
This year saw a slight increase in fatalities in the work place to 144 from 137 in 2016/17, however, this years figure continues the overall consistent reduction in work place fatalities which has been seen since 2012/13. Great Britain's work place fatalities also remain low in comparison to other European countries.
According to HSE estimates based on the Labour Force Survey, 555,000 injuries occurred at work in 2017/18. A slight reduction from 2016/17 in which an estimated 609,000 work related injuries occurred. RIDDOR reported injuries however, increased to 71,062 from 70,116 in 2016/17. This could be due to the trend seen in Organisations enforcing stricter work place accident and incident reporting.
New or long standing cases of work related ill health increased to 1.4 million in 2017/18 from 1.3 million. 35% of which related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), 44% to work related stress, depression and anxiety and 21% related to other non specified work related ill health.
In 2016/17 stress became the biggest work related illness in Great Britain overtaking MSDs with 536,000 new or long standing cases compared to 507,000 cases of MSDs. MSDs continued on a downward trend in 2017/18 reducing to 469,000 new or long standing cases.
Mesothelioma deaths continue to increase with a rise to 2,595 in 2017/18 from 2,542 in 2016/17, whilst all lung disease deaths linked to past work experience remained the same at 12,000. The HSE estimate that there is likely to be an increase of 2,500 mesothelioma deaths per year for the remainder of the decade before lung disease deaths begin to decline due to current Health and Safety policies and intervention.
It is estimated that the overall cost of work related injuries and ill health was £14.9 billion with 31.2 million working days lost in 2015/16. The cost of work related ill health continues to increase with an estimated cost of £15 billion in 2016/17, however, it is anticipated that slightly less days were lost at 30.7 million in 2016/17. Work related stress, depression and anxiety continues to be the UK's biggest work related illness and this years statistics reinforce this to be a correct focus for the HSE.
The HSE are likely to continue to target the construction, agriculture and manufacturing sectors as 2017/18 saw significantly higher statistics of work related ill health and injuries in agriculture, an increase in work related injury in the manufacturing sector and continued levels of both work place injury and ill health in the construction sector.
HR and social work activities saw an increase in work related ill health as did public administration, defence and education which may be accountable for the increased stress related statistics.
In 2017/18 11,522 enforcement notices were issued compared to 11,913 in 2016/17. A decrease in prosecutions (including Scotland) can also be seen from 554 in 2016/17 to 493 in 2017/18 whilst the percentage of cases where a conviction for at least 1 offence arises from those prosecutions has increased to 95% from 93% in 2016/17.
Whilst the 2017/18 statistics show a slight decrease in enforcement and prosecution by Health and Safety regulators from 2016/17 there is a slight increase in the percentage of cases where there was a conviction of at least 1 offence. This may be an indication of the HSE using their reduced resource to target prosecutions in incidents where they have the best prospects of securing a prosecution.
It is no surprise following the introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines to see a continued increase in the total fines as a result of convictions by the HSE in 2017/18. 2016/17 saw a dramatic increase in fines from HSE prosecutions to £71.8 million in 2016/17 from £38.3 million in 2015/16. This trend continues with a slight increase to £72.6 million in 2017/18. The continued increase in fines into 2017/18 may have been due to the introduction of fines relating to turnover, i.e. larger companies receiving larger fines.
It is of no surprise that there have been no significant changes in what the HSE class as 'the high risk industries in which workers are most likely to be injured by their work' with construction and agriculture remaining amongst the highest risk sectors. The HSE are, therefore, likely to continue to undertake the planned proactive inspections announced in their 2017/18 business plan targeting agriculture, manufacturing (specifically food, metal and wood working) and in light of continued lung related deaths, asbestos removal projects.
There has, however, been a change in the industries in which workers are most likely to suffer from ill health due to their work and this is likely to be indicative of the continued increase in work related stress, depression and anxiety in high pressured industries. Work related Stress remains a target for the HSE as part of their 3 year Health and Work Programme.
Overall work related injury and ill-health statistics continue to plateau and the HSE have confirmed that they consider that this years figures continue to "confirm the scale of the challenge [they face] in making Britain a healthier and safer place to work". Martin Temple, HSE Chair, commented: “These figures should serve as a reminder to us of the importance to manage risk and undertake good health and safety practice in the work place. Great Britain’s health and safety record is something we should all be proud of, but there is still much to be done to ensure that every worker goes home at the end of their working day safe and healthy…..". It is, therefore, likely that these statistics will incentivise the HSE to be more rigorous with their inspections and investigations to prevent future work place injuries, illness and deaths. We recommend that you continue to review and update your Health and Safety documents in line with HSE guidance, ensure that they are implemented by your workforce and without creating new risks. In addition, ensure that you are prepared for a visit from the HSE at all times by having a plan in place that relevant employees are familiar with. One point of contact is advised and make sure all staff are aware who to contact if an inspector calls!
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