Health and Safety trends show workplace injuries down, stress up
The HSE’s statistics for 2017 support the continuing trend for a downturn in workplace injuries and deaths; although stress, depression and anxiety are on the up, as are fines imposed for workplace incidents.
The recently published annual numbers confirmed 137 people were killed at work last year, with 31.2 million working days lost due to ill-health and non-fatal injuries; at a cost of £14.9 billion to the UK economy.
Further to the loss of 137 lives, there were also 70,116 non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR with an estimated further 609,000 people suffering non-reportable injuries. Slips, trips and falls were again the leading cause of injury, closely followed by lifting and handling incidents. In total, 5.5 million working days were lost due to non-fatal injuries.
The HSE ranks agriculture, forestry and fishing as statistically the most dangerous industries to work in, with construction, transport and, surprisingly, food service industries occupying the next three positions.
In terms of ill health - stress, depression and anxiety were the biggest cause of work absence, accounting for 40% of the 1.3 million cases recorded in 2017 and 49% of the 25.7 million lost working days. The major causes of this stress were excessive workloads, lack of support, violence and bullying, with the human health and social work sector the worst affected.
Whilst there remains a long-term downward trend in fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries, this appears to be levelling off, and has certainly slowed over the last few years. A similar trend is seen in relation to workplace ill health, albeit with slight upward movement in 2017 of the number of cases involving stress, depression and anxiety.
For the first time in several years, we saw a fall in the number of prosecutions brought by the HSE (down to 554 from 660 in 2016) although the number of enforcement notices issued by all authorities was up slightly on previous years (to 11,913 from 11,403).
Given 2017 was the first full year the new sentencing guidelines were in force, it is unsurprising that the biggest increase in enforcement was the total level of fines imposed by the courts, which rose to just under £70 million from £38.3m in 2016. Indeed, we fully anticipate this upward trend will continue in the coming years.
Despite the increase in fines, the UK actually leads the way for health and safety. We had the lowest fatal workplace injury and self-reported ill health rates of all our European counterparts and the UK is second only to Poland for self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries.
After several years of decreasing rates in workplace injuries and ill health, the 2017 statistics certainly suggest a levelling off in incidence rates. It will be interesting to see over the coming years whether Brexit will have an impact, positive or negative, on these rates. Whatever happens, the Keoghs Health and Safety team will keep you up to date with all the latest news and advice.
In the meantime, for the full statistics click here