The latest statistics on health and safety at work for the year 2017/18 are a sobering reminder of just how dangerous certain occupations can be and the continued need for employer vigilance and compliance with measures designed to protect their workforce from harm.
The stand out headline figures in this latest report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are:
- 1.4 million working people suffered from a work-related illness
- 2,595 mesothelioma deaths in 2016 were due to past asbestos exposure
- 144 people were killed at work
- 555,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey (71,062 of those were reported under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations)
- 30.7 million working days were lost in the year 2017/18 due to work-related illness and workplace injury
- The estimated cost to the economy due to injuries and ill health at work in 2016/17 was £15 billion
A total of 144 workers were killed at work in 2017/18, a small increase in fatalities from 2016/17. The rate of fatal injury in the construction sector was around four times higher than the average rate across all industries. However, the agriculture and waste and recycling sectors were once again the most dangerous occupations. The fatal injury rate here was some 18 times and 16 times as high as the average across all industries respectively.
Almost half of the fatal injuries to workers over the last five years were the result of just two kinds of accident:
- Falls from height
- Being struck by a moving vehicle
Falls from height accounted for 26% of all fatal injuries. Half of all fall from height deaths over the last five years were in the construction sector while around a quarter of deaths over the last five years from being struck by a moving vehicle were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.
An estimated 555,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries in 2017/18 according to self-reports. There were 71,062 serious non-fatal injuries reported by employers under (RIDDOR). The HSE suggests that it is known that RIDDOR defined non-fatal employee injuries are substantially under-reported by employers, so in reality that figure can probably be doubled.
While these published figures represent a slight reduction in the number of workers injured each year, the kinds of accident responsible for those injuries, ranging from slips and trips to accidents with machinery or handling and lifting, remain depressingly similar year on year. 8% of non-fatal injuries in 2017/18 were the result of a fall from height.