The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have revealed more than 1.7 million workers suffered from work-related ill health during the past year.
Around half of those affected were suffering stress, depression or anxiety, about 500,000 were dealing with work-related musculoskeletal disorders, 400,000 sustained a non-fatal injury at work and 93,000 believe they contracted Covid-19 as a result of exposure to the virus at work.
Sadly, 142 workers were killed at work during the year and around 12,000 people are thought to have died from lung diseases as a result of past exposures to hazardous substances at work.
The figures were revealed by the health and safety regulator this month in its work-related ill health, injury and enforcement statistics for 2020/21.
The cost of work-related ill health
The human cost of work-related ill health and injuries is tragic but there is also a financial cost to businesses.
During 2020/21, nearly 200 organisations were prosecuted and the average fine per case rose from £107,000 in 2019/20 to £145,000 per case in 2020/21.
In total, £26.9 million of fines were handed out during the year and nearly 3,000 notices were issued to organisations by the HSE.
Due to the pandemic, no new data on lost working days and their impact on the economy in 2020/21 is available.
However, in August 2020 the HSE released a report into the costs to Britain of workplace fatalities and self-reported injuries and ill health for 2018/19 which revealed that at that time the cost of new workplace injury and ill health cases amounted to £16.2 billion.
Ill health caused the biggest proportion of total costs at around £10.6 billion, with injuries resulting in around £5.6 billion of costs. Ill health contributed to a greater proportion of the total costs, despite injuries accounting for a greater proportion of cases, as ill health cases result in more time off work on average.
Individuals were left to bear the majority of the costs but employers also bore a staggering £3.2 billion of costs.
How can businesses and workers protect themselves?
We all have a role to play when it comes to health and safety and preventing work-related ill health.
If we fail to manage health and safety effectively the consequences can be disastrous for both workers and their employers.
If workers are not in a safe environment, they could be putting their lives at risk and if they do end up needing long-term healthcare the figures show they are likely to bear the brunt of the cost.
If an organisation does not protect the wellbeing of its staff, in the best case scenario it is likely to suffer from a drop of productivity. In more serious cases it could face potentially crippling fines and significant damage to its reputation. Individual company owners and managers could also be personally fined and even face custodial sentences if they are found to be in breach of health and safety law.
The reality is that many UK businesses will never get on top of their health and safety issues. Many bosses are working all hours to run successful businesses which keep their staff in work. As a result, they don’t have the time to deal with their health and safety headache.
Many people have sympathy with their plight but none of us would want bosses, ourselves or our loved ones to bear the pain caused by a health and safety mistake.
And the HSE is keen to make sure that companies know they will be prosecuted for any breaches.
Commenting on the work-related ill health, injury and enforcement statistics report for 2020/21, HSE chief executive Sarah Albon, said: “The HSE continues to act as a proportionate and enabling regulator taking the most appropriate actions to achieve the best and quickest result.
“However, where employers fall short of expected standards, HSE will not hesitate to hold those responsible to account.”
So, don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to health and safety at your workplace. If you see problems that need addressing, don’t ignore them, flag them and make sure they are rectified and if you need help managing your health and safety contact Acorn’s expert team today.
Our highly trained, award-winning consultants have years of health and safety experience and have worked with organisations of all sizes and from all industries across the UK.
We can also act as your Construction Design and Management (CDM) consultant, your CDM advisor or as a Retained Health and Safety Consultant for businesses which want the benefit of the best health and safety expertise without the expense of a full-time employee.
We also offer a free health and safety review surgery with our top health and safety expert, John Crockett.
During a 30-minute video call you will get the opportunity to discuss and diagnose your current health and safety compliance issues. John will take you through our 20-point Health and Safety Compliance Audit which will form the basis of a free compliance report to help you identify where you are getting health and safety right and where your business could be at risk.