Days lost to mental ill health up 40 per cent, HSE stats show

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Almost half of working days lost due to ill health and injury are today attributable to stress, depression, anxiety – an increase of 40 per cent when compared to last year.

The analysis is from statistics reported in HSE’s Health and safety at work Summary for 2019/20 issued on 4 November.

It shows that 17.9 million days were lost to work-related mental ill health in 2019/20, up from 12.8 million days in 2018/19.

There were also 828,000 new or longstanding cases of stress in 2019/20 compared to 602,000 the year before – an increase of 37 per cent.

It means that work-related stress, anxiety or depression now accounts for over half of the total 1.6 million new or long-standing cases of ill health.

Work-related stress, anxiety or depression now accounts for over half of the total 1.6 million new or long-standing cases of ill health

Statistics also show that ill health cases have increased in general, while work-related fatalities have dropped.

For example, 8.9 million working days were lost to musculoskeletal disorders in 2019/20, up from 6.9 million in 2018/19 – a rise of 28 per cent. The total number of workers suffering from work-related ill health is 1.6 million, an increase of 15 per cent on 2018/19.

Last year numbers of fatalities were at an all-time low of 111 fatalities.

Commenting, Steve Perkins, who runs a health solutions agency, said the statistics show there is not enough focus placed on health compared to safety.

“One work-related death is one too many, whether from disease or accident but this situation is untenable.”

“111 accident fatalities, but 13,000 ill-health deaths. Two statistics separated by one report page, but a world of difference in terms of focus and resources in the workplace. If prevention really is better than cure then we need occupational hygiene more than ever, or this will keep repeating itself year after year after year.”

However, analysis carried out by JMW Solicitors on HSE data has found that although fatalities have decreased, non-fatal workplace-related injuries have also increased. There were 693,000 non-fatal injuries occurring in 2019/20, an increase of 19 per cent in non-fatal injuries from 581,000 in 2018/19. Last year was also the highest recorded number since 724,000 in 2009/10.

Richard Powell, head of personal injury at JMW Solicitors, said: “Regular checks should be carried out in the workplace, as a seemingly safe workplace can hide serious health and safety risks likely to cause harm to employees, visitors or members of the public. Injuries in the workplace can vary in severity, with many - like head and spinal injuries - seriously disrupting an individual’s ability to live a normal life."

Prosecution cases brought by HSE 2014/15-2019/20

HSE says that the emergence of Covid-19 as a national health issue at the end of final quarter of 2019/20 “does not appear to be the main driver of changes seen in the data, although it is possible that COVID-19 may be a contributory factor.”

Commenting on the statistics, Sarah Newton, HSE Chair said: “Although Great Britain continues to be up there with the safest places in the world to work, these figures highlight the scale of the challenge HSE currently faces in making Britain an even healthier and safer place to work, this includes our role in the response to the pandemic to ensure workplaces are Covid Secure.

“We must continue to drive home the importance of managing risk and promoting behaviours to ensure employers work right so that workers are able to go home healthy and safe at the end of each day.”

Statistics show finally that HSE is prosecuting fewer companies for health and safety breaches. There were 342 cases which reached a verdict in court in 2019/20 as a result of HSE prosecuting. This compares to 395 in 2018/19 and 632 cases five years ago in 2014/15, representing a decrease of 45 per cent.

HSE statistics 2019/20 here


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