The Health and Safety Executive recently released figures for workplace injuries and work-related illnesses in 2017-2018. We looked at the data, and compared it with the previous year, to come to the following conclusions.

Workplace accidents are down by 9% (according to one set of figures)

Statistics from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), based on responses from employees, show a decrease from 609,000 non-fatal injuries in 2016/17 to 555,000 in 2017/18. This means the trend in recent years has been generally downwards, though not to the extent that it was up to 2010. However, in 2017/18 the number of non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR actually increased slightly on the previous year, from 70,116 to 71,062, a 1.3% change. Not all workplace injuries warrant reporting to RIDDOR, however, so the LFS figure is probably a better indication of workplace safety in the UK.

There was also a big drop in the number of working days lost due to non-fatal injuries. Based on data from the LFS, there were 1.6 million fewer days lost to injury in 2017/18 than 2016/17. This may indicate either a drop in the number of severe accidents or an increasing tendency of workers to turn up to work even when they’re injured – levels of sickness absence in the UK have remained comparatively low ever since the financial crisis of 2008.

Fatal injuries went up from 137 to 144

The number of fatal injuries is bound to vary to some degree from year to year. While it is unfortunate that workplace fatalities increased by 5% compared to the previous year, this is nonetheless in keeping with a broadly flat rate of fatal injuries in recent years. The UK compares very favourably with its European neighbours in this regard, with the rate of fatal injuries amongst the lowest in the Western Europe, lower than that of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the average for all 28 EU countries. It’s probably safe to assume that this makes the UK one of the safest places to work in the world.

Mental health is a growing problem

An extra 1.1 million working days (26.8 million in total) were lost due to work-related ill health in 2017/18 compared to the previous year. While this 4% change isn’t enormous and is part of a generally flat trend in recent years, poor mental health is taking an increasing toll on the British workforce. In 2017/18, 57% of working days (15.4 million) lost to ill health were due to stress, depression or anxiety compared to 49% the previous year.

Take into account the overall increase in days lost and you can see there’s been quite a significant jump in people taking days off work due to mental health issues. 595,000 workers reportedly suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18 compared to 526,000 the previous year. The reasons for this rise are unclear, though data from 2009-2012 showed 44% of work-related stress, depression or anxiety was caused by workload, and the highest rates of mental ill-health are found in the hard-pressed education, healthcare and social work sectors. Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the need to tackle mental ill-health in the workplace, and Safety First Aid Training are now offering Mental Health First Aider courses to help address this.

Other findings
  • The downward trend in musculoskeletal disorders continued in 2017/18
  • Occupational lung disease rates grew slightly
  • The economic cost of workplace injury and ill-health are around the same as the previous year
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You can view HSE’s summary of injury and ill-health statistics for 2017/18 here.