When it comes to Health & Safety in the workplace, we’re talking big business: the overall cost to UK employers of workplace injuries and illness is over £14 billion per year. That’s a lot of slips and trips! Whilst statistically, larger organisations are likely to have a greater number of incidences of injury or ill health at work, smaller organisations are less likely to have the correct health & safety controls and policies in place, and are therefore putting themselves at a disproportionately high risk of having to deal with the consequences of something going wrong.
In the East of England alone there were nearly 2300 injuries to workers last year, according to data from the Health & Safety Executive. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics for our region in more detail. The cost of workplace illness in the East of England in 2013 was a staggering £676million, and the cost of workplace injury was a still an eye watering £416million. These figures just take into account new cases of illness or injury and don’t include those that have carried over from the previous year.
Unsurprisingly, if you break down the number of workplace injuries by industry sector, we find that a large percentage of these occur in the construction industry, with 158 reported injuries last year. The service sector accounted for the second most number of injuries at 137, although this sector does cover a broad spectrum of occupation types. Manufacturing accounted for 104 injuries, 70 in Energy, Recycling & Waste, 57 in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing and just 4 in Mining & Quarrying.
When we think of accidents at work, we most likely think of falling off ladders, or a slip or trip on a factory floor. Indeed these are the two most common kind of incidents reported in our region, with falls from height and slips and trips accounting for 134 causes of injuries each last year. But there are a whole host of other reported accidents, usually caused by poor health & safety management, and often avoidable. These include contact with machinery, lifting and handling, struck by a vehicle or moving object and physical assault, all of which recorded incidences of between 70 and 110 last year. Less common, but nevertheless extremely serious, accidents include contact with electricity (14), exposure to explosion (7), exposure to harmful substances (14), drowning or asphyxiation (2) and exposure to fire (18).
Whilst thankfully most accidents at work tend to be minor and cause no long term injury, last year there were 11 fatalities as a result of workplace injury, working out at 0.4 fatalities for every 100,000 workers. Although this is a slight increase on the previous year (9 fatalities) it is significantly less than the 5 year average of 15 per year, so we can hope that we are seeing a downward trend as we strive to make our working environments safer. Again, these figures are specific to the East of England.
As well as injuries in the workplace, illnesses caused in the line of work are also an extremely serious issue with approximately 110,000 new or ongoing cases of self reported illness caused or made worse by work in our region alone last year. Asbestos related illness, respiratory issues, hand arm vibration, noise-induced hearing loss, work related skin disease and musculoskeletal disorders are some of the debilitating illness that workers may suffer. But, in addition to these, you may be surprised to learn that stress accounts for a large proportion of work-related illnesses. Last year there were 40,000 cases of self-reported stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work in the East of England. It has been found that stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education, health and social care with the key triggers cited as workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
The statistics may make uncomfortable reading and experts agree that more thought should be given to the provision of awareness and training, particularly to small and medium sized businesses to help reduce their incidences of workplace accident and illnesses. Keeping up to date with new regulations will not only help reduce the risk of prosecution for non-compliance, but also help ensure best practice. Whilst it’s essential to make an investment in your Health & Safety Management, it’s better to have the correct systems and policies in place now, rather than risk the safety and well being of your employees and the financial burden it may bring if you haven’t got it right. And of course, a safe and healthy workforce mean better productivity and better results for your business in the long run so don’t let your employees become a health & safety statistic.