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Home>Health & Safety>Warehouse Safety>HSE statistics reveal rise in UK work-related illness

HSE statistics reveal rise in UK work-related illness

08 July 2024

New statistics on occupational health and safety in the UK will be “disappointing” for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), according to one legal expert. 

IN 2023, roughly 1.8 million people reported suffering from work-related illnesses. Among them, 875,000 workers experienced stress, depression or anxiety due to work-related factors, while 473,000 endured musculoskeletal disorders linked to their work.  

While the overall rate of self-reported work-related ill health has declined since the 1990s, the recent years leading up to the pandemic have seen it plateau, according to the figures. The current rate, at 5,250 per 100,000 workers, is higher than the pre-Covid-19 levels recorded in 2018 and 2019. 

After a consistent downward trend since the 1990s, musculoskeletal disorders have continued to level off since 2018. In contrast, work-related stress, depression or anxiety rose in the years before the pandemic, a trend that has continued in the 2023 figures.  

The rate is now higher than the pre-pandemic levels, contributing to an overall increase in the rate of total self-reported work-related illnesses in 2022-23. It means stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 49% of all work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost due to such health issues in the past year. 

Kevin Bridges, health and safety law expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “The HSE has been very clear about its priorities and will no doubt be disappointed that more has not been achieved in reducing workplace injury and ill health, particularly around mental health and wellbeing. It will undoubtedly lead to an increase in resolve.” 

“However, that resolve must be matched with resource to allow for enforcement and the HSE is stretched to capacity. Perhaps the general stagnation in improvement will bolster calls for increased funding. It may also mean that it won’t be long before we see enforcement action in relation to failures around mental health and wellbeing,” he added. 

The construction industry continues to have the highest number of worker fatalities at 45 – an increase from the previous 35 in 2022. Agriculture, fisheries, and forestry had the highest fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers, 21 times higher than the all-industry rate. The waste and recycling sector follows closely at ten times higher, with construction at four times higher. 

According to the statistics, fatal injuries predominantly resulted from falls from height, followed by incidents involving moving vehicles and moving objects. Bridges said: “The fact that these causes continue to make the headlines will not go unnoticed by the HSE’s inspectors. The statistics are likely to inform their inspections, so employers should take note.” 

It total, the estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions is estimated at £20.7 billion, with around 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illnesses and injuries. 

Dr Julie Riggs, director of education and membership, British Safety Council, added: “The rise in work-related fatalities, as reported by the Health and Safety Executive, serves as a stark reminder that we cannot become complacent about the health and safety of workers. Put simply, the consequences of poor health and safety are too great a price to pay.

“For 50 years, the general direction of travel has seen safer workplaces with falling numbers of workplace deaths and non-fatal injuries; that for a second year this trend has reversed is cause for concern. It sends a message that we need to prioritise worker health and safety, understand the causes of rising fatalities, and take targeted action to return to falling figures and safer workplaces for all.”