The HSE has released the 2020 health and safety at work statistics for Great Britain. The report includes statistics for work-related ill health, workplace injuries, working days lost, the associated costs to Great Britain, and the number of cases prosecuted and fines issued.
Potential Impact of COVID-19
The statistics for 2019/20 (April 2019 to March 2020) mainly fall outside the period when coronavirus was disrupting businesses, although the pandemic has affected some data collection processes. Local authorities suspended many routine data collection returns, including reports on enforcement, and fatal injuries among members of the public.
The HSE believes the emergence of COVID-19 over the first quarter of this year was not a major factor in changes seen in the data, though COVID-19 may have been a contributory factor.
Work-Related Ill Health
There were 638,000 new cases of work-related ill health out of 1.6 million cases in 2019/20.
Over 50% of the total related to stress, depression or anxiety. The rate of self-reporting of these types of cases has increased in recent years, and the latest statistics show another upturn in the rate of reporting. COVID-19 may be a contributory factor to this, but not a major driver. Workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work are believed to be the principal causes.
Musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 30% of the total number of cases. The rate of self-reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders showed a general downward trend from the previous period. Disorders related to the upper limbs or neck accounted for nearly 45% of these, 37% were related to the back. Industries with higher than average rates of musculoskeletal disorders, averaged over 2017/18–2019/20, include agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, human health and social work.
Occupational lung diseases account for around 12,000 of the 13,000 total annual deaths believed to be linked to past exposures at work. There were 174 new cases of occupational asthma reported in 2019, and there is evidence that the rate of new cases has increased in recent years.
There were 111 fatal injuries, making it appear the lowest year on record. However, this is likely due to the impact of coronavirus in the final two months of the period reported.
The three most common causes, accounting for 60% of fatal injuries in 2019/20, continue to be workers falling from height (29 incidents), being struck by a moving vehicle (20 incidents) and being struck by a moving object (18 incidents).
The largest number of fatalities (40 incidents) was amongst construction workers. The annual average for the past five years is 37, although this is still about four times higher than the all-industry rate. There were twenty fatal injuries to agricultural, forestry and fishing workers. This is the lowest level on record, but this sector still has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, being about 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
There were five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is also about 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
The fatality figures also continue to highlight the risks to older workers. Twenty-seven per cent of fatal injuries involved workers aged 60 or over, despite this age group being only about 10% of the workforce.
Members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-connected accidents. In 2019/20 51 members of the public died because of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces. Thirty-three occurred in the Health and Social work sector. A further 41 fatalities occurred on railways. As mentioned above, data from Local Authority enforced workplaces is unavailable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, the number of fatalities annually in such workplaces has been between 12 and 16.
The rates for fatal injury and of self-reported nonfatal injury show a general downward trend. They have been broadly flat in recent years. The statistics show that Great Britain is still one of the safest places in the world to work.
There were 693,000 non-fatal injuries according to self reports from the Labour Force Survey in 2019/20 and 65,427 non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR.
The most common non-fatal accident injuries as reported by employers were related to slips, trips or falls on the same level (29%), handling, lifting or carrying (19%), and being struck by a moving object (11%). These statistics are practically the same as last year. Falls from height were 8% of the total, while acts of violence made up 9% of reported injuries.
HSE Enforcement Statistics
The period 2019/20 saw a fall in the number of cases prosecuted, continuing the trend from the previous year. There were 325 cases prosecuted by the HSE or referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for prosecution in Scotland, that resulted in a conviction.
Fines issued to duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences came to £35.8 million. The level of fine issued in 2019/20 decreased compared to the previous year. The average fine per conviction was also significantly lower, £110,000 compared to £150,000 in 2018/19.