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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

31 MAR 2015

Occupational Injuries and Ill-Health Statistics 2013/2014

Occupational Injuries and Ill-Health Statistics 2013/2014
Fatal Injuries

The provisional figures for work-related fatal injuries during 2013/2014 show that 133 workers (89 employees and 44 self-employed workers) were fatally injured, which is a fall of 17 compared to the 2012/13 figure of 150 and is 31 less than the average of 164 deaths per year over the last five years. The figure of 133 equates to a rate of 0.44 fatalities per 100,000 workers, which compares to an average rate of 0.56 over the last five years. Owing to fluctuations in the number of fatalities over recent years, it is not possible at this stage to confirm whether these figures represent a further sustained improvement in fatality rates.

Note that these figures relate to fatal injuries, ie. deaths arising from occupational diseases are not included.

The main industry sectors with the highest rates of fatal injury to workers were again agriculture (27 fatalities, equating to a rate of 8.77 deaths per 100,000 workers), waste and recycling (4 fatalities, equating to a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers) and construction (42 fatalities, equating to a rate of 1.98 deaths per 100,000 workers).

There were 70 fatal injuries to members of the public during 2013/14 that occurred as a result of the work activities of others (note that this figure excludes fatalities associated with incidents on the railways, such as suicide or trespass).

Non-fatal injuries

These can be summarised as follows:

  • Employer-reported non-fatal injuries: 77,593 non-fatal injuries were reported in 2013/14 (provisional figure) in accordance with the requirements of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). This equates to a rate of 304.6 injuries per 100,000 employees. in 2012/13 the corresponding figures were 80,368 injuries and a rate of 320.1 injuries per 100,00 employees. However, because the RIDDOR reporting requirements changed in October 2013, the figures are not directly comparable. While allowing for the change in reporting requirements, there are signs that the downward trend over the past 10 years may be slowing.

The most common types of accident leading to a reportable injury were slips and trips (28%), handling, lifting or carrying (24%) and being struck by moving objects (10%).

  • Self-reported injuries: through figures collated via the Labour Force Survey, it is estimated that a total of 629,000 people had an accident at work in 2013/14. The resulting injuries caused 203,000 workers to have more than three days' absence from work, and 148,000 workers to have more than seven days' absence.

Rates of self-reported non-fatal injury have followed a broadly downward trend over the last 10 years; however as with employer-reported reported injuries there are signs that this is now levelling off.

Ill health

Based on information gathered from the 2013/14 Labour Force Survey, which contains details of self-reported ill health, it is estimated that in 2013/14 two million people were suffering from an illness (long-standard as well as new cases) they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work. Of the two million, 535,000 were new cases occurring during 2013/14. The survey was last undertaken two years ago in 2011/12, and at that time the corresponding figures were 1.8 million people suffering from an illness caused or made worse by current or past work, of which 452,000 were new cases. Thus, while new cases of ill health have generally fallen over the last 10-15 years, the 2013/14 figures represent significant increases over the two-year period.

Around 80% of the 535,000 new cases were either stress depression or anxiety (244,000 cases) or musculoskeletal disorders (184,000). Other illnesses accounted for 107,000 new cases, significant types including: respiratory diseases such as occupational asthma; skin disease; vibration-related disease; and hearing problems due to noise exposure.

Deaths

Each year approximately 13,000 people die from ill health, the vast majority of which relates to diseases caused by past work exposures. The main causes are:

  • Cancer: 8,000 deaths, with exposure to asbestos being the most common factor (approximately 5,000 deaths per year, and still increasing). The next four biggest categories of occupational cancer are lung cancer due to silica, diesel engine exhaust, mineral oils and breast cancer due to shift work.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): approximately 4,000 deaths, arising from past exposure to various fumes, chemicals and dusts. The two main COPD diseases are bronchitis and emphysema. 
  • Abestosis and other non-malignant respiratory disease: over 4,000 deaths in 2012.

Costs

It is estimated that 28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health or injury in 2013/14. Work-related ill health accounted for approximately 23.5 million of the days lost, and workplace injuries for 4.7 million. Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 11.3 million of the days lost, and musculoskeletal disorders for 8.3 million. On average, each person took 16 days off work (19 in cases of ill health, and 7.5 for injuries). 

The overall economic cost of work-related injuries and new cases of ill health in 2013/14 is estimated to be £14.2 billion (at 2012 prices). The economic cost has been falling over the last 10 years, but appears to be levelling off in more recent years.

Given that 99% of work-related deaths are attributable to work-related ill health and 1% to work-related injuries, and that ill health accounts for the vast majority of sickness absence, there is a strong argument that in Great Britain there has been too little emphasis on health as compared to safety. However, whether or not that is the case, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is seeking to ensure that health gains the prominence and attention that it deserves. The HSE launched a number of health initiatives last year, most recently its 'Beware asbestos' campaign launched in October 2014. More such initiatives can be expected in the future.

Enforcement

The number of prosecution cases taken across Great Britain during 2013/14 was 674, involving a total of 1,187 offences (a fall of 3% on the previous year). Of these offences, 1,073 resulted in a conviction (a conviction rate of 90%).

The HSE prosecuted 551 of the 674 cases in England and Wales, a fall of 5% compared to 2012/13. Local authorities prosecuted 88 cases in England and Wales, a fall of 16% from 2012/13, and in Scotland the Procurator Fiscal heard 35 cases, an increase of 25% on the previous year. Overall, 94% of the cases taken resulted in a conviction for at least one of the relevant offences.

For the prosecution cases brought by the HSE, duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences received fines totalling £16.7 million, giving average penalties on conviction of £18,944 per offence. For the prosecution cases brought by local authorities, the fines totalled £1.6 million, giving average penalties of £8,225 per offence.

As regards statutory notices, the HSE issued 10,119 notices during 2013/14, an increase of 15% on the 2012/13 figure. Local authorities issued 3,671 health and safety-related notices during 2013/14, a fall of 22% from the previous year.
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