Has Covid impacted Health and Safety statistics in the UK? Recently, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a summary of its annual Health And Safety At Work Statistics 2021. It is important to note that this year the impact of covid and the effects of the pandemic have been included as part of the facts.
According to the HSE, the figures for Great Britain (2020/21) include:
1.7 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, of which 822,000 workers suffering work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
470,000 workers suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder.
93,000 workers suffering from COVID-19 which they believe may have been from exposure to coronavirus at work
2,369 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2019)
142 workers killed at work
441,000 working people sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey
51,211 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR
Health and safety at work is of paramount importance. Employers must implement appropriate risk assessments and working practices to ensure the highest levels of health and safety for all employees in the workplace.
The latest Health and Safety At Work statistics from the HSE report that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of self-reported work-related ill health was broadly flat. Then, in 2020/21, the rate was higher than pre-coronavirus levels during 2018/2019.
In the recent years the rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety has been increasing. Understandably, in 2020/21 this rate was higher than pre-pandemic levels. Contributors to work-related stress, depression or anxiety figures included workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and since 2020 the pandemic has also played a major role in these issues.
Did you know that occupational lung diseases account for around 12,000 of the 13,000 total annual deaths estimated to be linked to past exposures at work? Over the next ten years, mesothelioma deaths are expected to reduce.
Unfortunately, the pandemic had both a direct and indirect impact many employees in the workplace. An important statement from the HSE reads “identifying the source of exposure for COVID-19 that is widely prevalent in the community is difficult and self-reports may under- or overestimate the true scale. These estimates of numbers of workers who suffered ill health as a result of the coronavirus pandemic should not be subtracted from the overall estimate of work-related ill health. We cannot assume that those individuals would not have otherwise suffered a work-related illness in the absence of coronavirus.”
A positive figure from the latest HSE report also shows that the rate of fatal injury shown a downward trend and in recent years has now become broadly flat. Non-fatal injury to workers in 2020/21 the rate was also lower than the 2018/19 report.
Several industries have been identified with ill health rates that are statistically significantly higher than other workplace settings. These include human health and social work, public administration and defence and education. Meanwhile, agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, accommodation and food service activities and wholesale and retail trade had statistically significantly higher injury rates than other industries.
It has also been noted that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic impacted the number of prosecutions and notices issued. 2020/2021 saw a substantial decrease in the number of cases prosecuted. The number of notices issued by HSE bodies also showed a substantial decrease compared to the previous year.
The data above has shown that even if COVID did not affect an individual directly (eg, testing positive for the virus) the outcome of the pandemic has had a ripple effect across all industries from physical to mental health to the impact on staff absences and services.
Further information on these figures can be found in the Health and Safety At Work Statistics from the HSE which can be downloaded here.
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