The Health and Safety Executive release key figures for workplace injuries each year. These statistics are based on all reported work-related illness or injuries and includes a massive amount of data from every sector of work in the UK.
Because of the massive amount of data that is collected and the structure that data is reported in, the statistics are always covering the previous year. The latest statistics available in 2022, are the 2020/21 statistics.
The HSE’s key figures are a great way to get an overview of the issues faced by the UK. The 2020/21 statistics indicate that there are 1.7 million working people suffering from a work-related illness. Of these 1.7 million, the key figures report:
- 822,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020/21, with 451,000 of these being new cases in 2020/21
- 470,000 workers suffering with work-related musculoskeletal disorder
- 441,000 workers sustaining a non-fatal injury
- 142 fatal injuries
Much of the statistical data from these reports comes from self-reported data provided by the Labour Force Survey, a study of employment in the UK carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of the 441,000 injuries suffered at work, 51,211 of which were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
But what do these statistics all mean?
822,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety 2020/21
March 2020 saw the start of the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic. The pandemic (and news media surrounding it) will have resulted in a consistent and heightened level of health anxiety, general anxiety, social anxiety and alertness for a prolonged period of time, reinforced by legislative measures such as lockdowns and lack of access to routine healthcare appointments. Additionally, the pandemic has made an impact (for some people positive, for some negative) on the type of work that we do, and the way that we work.
COVID-19 may be partially attributable towards the vast increase in new reports of stress, anxiety and depression:
Work-related stress – Changes to the way that we work, such as moving to remote, moving to socially distanced working, working isolated from others, not being able to work collaboratively as easily, as well as less access to support.
Work-related anxiety – Increased stress from work resulting in anxious behaviours or anxiety disorders, uncertainty about job/workplace continuity, and health anxiety. Many healthcare facilities had poor control over COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, including poor administrative and engineering controls, and inappropriate or no PPE. This can make face-to-face workers feel more vulnerable and anxious about their health, as their employer is not controlling their exposure to COVID-19, and by extension the exposure of their families as well.
Work-related depression – Working from home/working in empty workplaces (feeling isolated), being unable to work, or having an increased workload can all result in the development of depressive symptoms and depressive disorders.
However, there were already around 371,000 cases prior to the pandemic which need to be considered. This 822,000 is likely to rise due to the longevity of negative impacts experienced by those with stress, anxiety and depression, and the increased wait times for medical assistance.
Improve employee support in relation to psychosocial risks, and the management of risks that can worsen or cause mental health. There is a legal responsibility under the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999 to assess anything that can cause ill health in the workplace, and implement appropriate controls, this includes mental health and stress.
470,000 cases of musculoskeletal disorders 2020/21
Musculoskeletal disorders affect the muscles and skeleton of the human body, and there are many ways that you can sustain a workplace musculoskeletal injury.
- Slips, trips and falls can lead to sprains, torn ligaments/muscles, and broken bones.
- Manual handling injuries can cause slipped discs, hernias, injuries to the arms, legs and joints and pains.
- Improper use of Display Screen Equipment can cause a trapped nerve, pain in the neck, lower back, upper back and shoulders, carpel tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury.
- Musculoskeletal injuries tend to be pervasive and may last a lifetime, especially those that affect the spine.