Health and Safety at Work Statistics 2017/18 Published

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently published health and safety statistics for 2017/18.[i] Some key figures reported, include:

  • 1.4 million ill health cases (new or long standing) in 2017/18.
  • 0.6 million work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases (new or long-standing) in 2017/18.
  • 0.5 million work-related musculoskeletal disorder cases (new or long-standing) in 2017/18.
  • 12,000 lung disease deaths estimated to be linked to past exposures at work (same figure as when we reported on Health and Safety at Work Statistics in 2016/17, here).
  • 2,595 mesothelioma deaths in 2016, with a similar number of asbestos-related lung cancer cases.
  • The cost of new cases of work-related ill health in 2016/17, excluding long latency diseases such as cancer, was £15 billion.

Work-Related Ill Health

In 2017/18, 1.4 million workers were suffering from work-related ill health. Of these, 541,000 workers were suffering from a new case of work-related ill health. Overall, 26.8 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health. 

The most common type of work-related ill health was stress, depression or anxiety, cases of which accounted for 44% of the total number of new and long-standing cases of work-related ill health. Musculoskeletal disorders were the second most common type of work-related ill health, comprising of 35% of the total number of cases. A similar trend was seen among the working days lost, with stress, anxiety and depression being the cause of 57% days of absence and musculoskeletal disorders being the cause of 25%.

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The rate of self-reported work-related ill health generally decreased until 2011/12. Since then, the rate has been broadly unchanged.  The same pattern has emerged for the number of working days lost per worker.

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The industries with ill-health rates above the rate for all injuries combined (highest to lowest), were:

  1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing.
  2. Human health and social work activities.
  3. Public administration and defence and Education.
  4. Utility supply.
  5. Education.
  6. Construction.
  7. Other service activities.

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Work-Related Stress, Depression and Anxiety

There were 595,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (including both new and long-term cases) in 2017/18, of which 239,000 were new cases.  In total, 15.4 million working days were lost over the past year.  Data from 2017/18 was combined with data from 2015/16 and 2016/17; this revealed that the industries with the highest rates of stress, depression or anxiety (from highest to lowest) were:

  1. Education.
  2. Human health and social work.
  3. Public administration and defence.

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The rates of stress, anxiety or depression cases per 100,000 workers have remained broadly flat since the millennium, but since 2016/17, the number of cases has continued to rise.

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Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

During 2017/18, there were 469,000 workers suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders which were either new or longstanding. Within this period, 156,000 cases were new.  The areas most commonly affected were the upper limbs and neck, amounting to 42% of cases. By comparison, the back was affected in 40% of cases and the lower limbs were affected in 18% of cases. Averaging of data collected from 2015/2016 to 2017/2018 showed that the industries with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders (from highest to lowest) were:

  1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing.
  2. Construction.
  3. Transportation and storage.
  4. Public administration and defence.
  5. Human health and social work.

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The numbers of musculoskeletal disorders per 100,000 workers have decreased over the last several years. Similarly, the number of working days lost per worker follows a long-term downward trend. Based on Labour Force Survey data, it is predicted that manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard work or repetitive action will be the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal diseases in future years.

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Occupational Lung Disease

It is estimated that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are linked to past exposures at work. This is a high figure, especially given that there are only 13,000 total deaths estimated to be linked to past exposures at work. Over the last 3 years, Labour Force Survey information shows that there has been an average of 20,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work.  Lung diseases that contribute to the estimated current annual deaths are:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (33%);
  • Non-asbestos related lung cancer (22%);
  • Mesothelioma (20%);
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer (20%); and
  • Other disease (5%).

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There were 212 new cases of occupational asthma seen by chest physicians in 2017, with no notable change in annually reported statistics over the past decade.

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Moreover, no decline in mesothelioma deaths is expected until the end of the decade. In 2016, there were 2,595 deaths and estmates infer that the number of cases per year will continue to be in the region of 2,500.

 

[i] ‘Health and safety at work: Summary statistics for Great Britain 2018’ (October 2018 HSE) <http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1718.pdf> accessed 8 November 2018.