Between 2011 and 2012, 1.1 million workers suffered from a work-related illness. A staggering 173 people were killed whilst at their workplace and Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) received a further 111,000 reports of other injuries sustained by employees. In total, as a result of work-related illness and workplace injury, 27 million working days were lost.
In order to understand the challenges facing the Health and Safety industry, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) analyses accident statistics on an annual basis. One of the areas which they investigate is the types of accident which occur. 2011/12 saw two-thirds of fatal injuries being caused by four particular types of accident. These were being struck by a vehicle, a fall from height, being struck by a moving object or being trapped by a collapsing structure. One in seven fatalities were caused by either electricity, fire, explosion or drowning/asphyxiation accidents, but only one in 100 non-fatal accidents were attributed to one of these causes. Over half of all major injuries were due to slips, trips and falls. These also accounted for nearly a third of over-3-day injuries. Overall, the most commonly reported kind of injury was handling injuries (RIDDOR).
In terms of fatal injuries, 173 workers were fatally injured between 2011 and 2012. This figure is 12% lower than the average number for the past five years. When this figure is added to the result of previous years, the HSE can conclude that the previous downward trend is, in fact, levelling off. Excluding railway incidents, there were also 90 members of the public fatally injured in work–related accidents.
With so much emphasis currently placed on ensuring the public are fit to work, the HSE pay close attention to work-related ill health. The results are generally pleasing, as over the past decade there has been a decline in the number of people suffering from work-related illnesses.
In 2011/2012, however, there were still 425,000 new cases of work-related illness, with approximately 1.1 million people suffering during the year. Of these, 12,000 cases are estimated to be the result of previous exposure at work, mainly to chemicals and harmful dusts. Another 80,000 of the cases were described as either: anxiety, depression, stress, or musculoskeletal disorders. Hearing loss, vibration-related disorders, skin disease and respiratory diseases were among the other work-related illnesses reported in 2011/12. Asbestos, which kills approximately 4000 people a year, is another major cause of work-related illness. Likewise, 35,000 workers who are currently working or who have recently been employed state that they have breathing difficulties which have either been caused or made worse by their work.
The results of the HSE investigations show overall trends for work-related injury have levelled off and work-related illnesses are decreasing. However, there is still much work to be done to further reduce the amount of illnesses and injuries caused by work. As such, it is imperative that employers invest both time and money into ensuring that health and safety standards are maintained through appropriate Occupational Health and Safety training courses. Training will enable staff to understand the risks that their jobs entail and to be able to deal with these risks effectively.