NEWS: Workplace ill health cost Britain £9.7 billion in 2016/17, stats show

Workplace injury and ill health cost Britain £14.9bn last year, but the lion’s share of cost was spent on illness caused by work.

A total of £5.3billion was spent due to workplace injury, the recently published HSE annual statistics 2016/17 show. In comparison, £9.7billion was spent on new cases of work-related ill health – even without considering the costs of long latency illness such as cancer.

The report finds that 1.3 million workers suffered from work-related ill health last year and that 12,000 people died due to past exposure to chemicals or dust at work. Lung disease is by far the leading cause of deaths from ill health at work - 13,000 deaths being the overall total for ill health.

There were on average 18,000 new cases reported of breathing or lung problems that were caused or made worse by work.

A total 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2016/17. Most MSDs were suffered in the upper limbs or neck (45 per cent), followed by the back (28 per cent of disorders).

HSE issued a separate report on work related stress, anxiety or depression statistics for Great Britain 2016/17, the third priority area it will tackle under its health and work strategy.

A poster from HSE's Go Home Healthy Campaign, part of its health and work strategy to tackle three areas of ill health at work

The eleven page report shows that a total of 526,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2016/17, a rate of 1,610 per 100,000 workers.

The stress incidence rate makes 2017 the highest year in ten years since 2006/07. Last year the highest number of workers also reported stress in the last six year period, with 2013/14 the previous highest year with 487,000 workers suffering from stress.

HSE’s report states however that the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has ‘remained broadly flat with some fluctuations’.

Stress as reported by profession shows some sharp contrasts, with ‘statistically significantly’ lower rates of work-related stress reported for manual work compared with public service industries, like teaching and hospital work.

Nursing and midwifery professionals had 3,090 cases of stress, depression or anxiety per 100,000 workers, for example, and teaching professions; 2,640 cases. Among business and administrative professionals there were 1,840 cases.

But for skilled trades and process plant and machine operatives there were dramatically lower rates at 460, and 620 cases per 100,000 workers respectively.

Workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support, were cited as the main work factors behind work-related stress, depression or anxiety across all jobs.

In total, across all industries, the number of working days lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17 was 12.5 million days. This equated to an average of 23.8 days lost per case.

HSE calculates statistics on stress using the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a household survey consisting of around 37,000 households per quarter across Great Britain, and the Health and Occupation Research network for general practitioners (THOR-GP) across Great Britain. The network asks GPs to assess whether new cases of mental ill health they see in their surgeries are work-related.

Work-related ill health statistics are calculated using a variety of sources, including death certificates, Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) and the LFS.