New safety figures identify the most dangerous industries
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has made an annual update to its reporting on accidents, disease and even deaths caused as a result of employment and workplaces. It revealed that 142 people died in the UK during the 2014-15 period while at work. 78,000 people also suffered non-fatal injuries that were reported by their bosses, although another 611,000 had to report their own workplace injuries. While still troubling, these figures have fallen compared to 2013-14.
The many problems that British employees have to deal with thanks to poor working conditions include the risk of developing noise induced hearing loss, lung problems such as asthma, skin diseases, musculoskeletal issues and even cancer. These diseases afflict 1.2 million people, with cancer deaths accounting for 8,000 fatalities and hitting three times more men than women. Mesothelioma and asbestos cases are sadly on the rise while other diseases are on the decrease.
The most dangerous occupations include those working in the great outdoors, with fishermen and farmers making up 4.3% of all those injured on the job. If you are in building construction (3.1%), logistics (2.6%), manufacturing (2.4%) or in the hotel and dining trades (2.7%), take care as those are also risky professions where accidents happen.
Diseases are most easily caught in employments in the public sector, such as those that cover healthcare and social work (4.6% of all diseases at work), public administration and defence (4.2%) or water supply and waste management (4%).
Of the 142 fatal injuries in the UK, 113 were in England, 20 happened in Scotland and 9 occured in Wales.
On the bright side, you are safer than most if you work in finance, property sales and lettings, the arts, leisure, communications, science or retail. Shop staff are not entirely free of danger though. The possibilty of dealing with tough customers puts retailers at the top of the stress league. Survey respondents also cited time pressures, long or irregular hours, poor communication and job insecurity as having an effect on their mental health. Stress affected 440,000 employees in the last year.
So what are the consequences for employers that jeopardise their workers’ health? Health and safety incidents lose UK businesses and organisations 27.3 million working days and cost them an estimated, and staggering, £14.3 billion, with illness making up £9.4 billion of that figure and injury accounting for the other £4.9 billion. This affects employers to the tune of a £2.8 billion loss. If the well-being of British employers’ staff isn’t one of their key priorities, then these figures for the effect on productivity might work as a wake-up call that encourages bosses to take better care of employees. A healthy workforce leads to a healthy business.
Paul Hill, an industrial disease expert at Asons Solicitors of Bolton in Greater Manchester said:
“The new figures from the HSE which were released today are both a cause for celebration and concern. Celebration in that accidents and deaths in the workplace have fallen quite considerably in recent years, but concern on the whole as it also shows that 142 people lost their lives due to workplace accidents or industrial disease caused by poor working conditions in 2014-15.
“In this day and age we must do all that we can to keep people safe in their working environment. We must constantly strive to replace hazardous materials with safer ones, to research and update protective equipment on a regular basis and for some companies that slip through the net to provide adequate protective workwear in the first place.
“Asons have seen a significant increase in claims for noise induced hearing loss and other industrial diseases in the past six months and this just goes to show that there is still a lot of work to be done in this sector to ensure all working people throughout the UK have a safe working environment.”
Judith Hackitt, Chair of the HSE, said:
“It’s encouraging that there have been improvements in injuries and ill health caused by work related activities. But behind the statistics are people, their families, friends, work colleagues, directly affected by something that’s gone wrong, that is usually entirely preventable.
“Nobody should lose their life or become ill simply from doing their job. These figures show that despite the great strides and improvements made over the last 40 years since Britain’s health and safety regime was established, there is still more that can be done.”