Health and Safety Executive workplace injury statistics 2020-2021
Occupational Injury Partner, Ross Whalley, analyses HSE’s recent publication on workplace injury.
Posted on 17 December 2021
In the recent report Health and safety at work Summary statistics for Great Britain 2021 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released updated figures on workplace injury statistics for 2020/2021.
A total of 441,000 working people sustained an injury at work. As the Association of Personal Injuries Lawyers notes, that’s almost the entire population of Bristol.
The other headline statistics were as follows;
- 142 workers were killed at work
- 1,700,000 workers were suffering from work related ill health (new or long standing)
- 800,000 workers were suffering from work related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long standing)
- 93,000 workers were suffering from COVID-19 in 2020/21 which they believe may have been from exposure to coronavirus at work (new or long-standing)
- 500,000 workers were suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (new or longstanding) in 2020/21
- 600,000 workers were suffering from a work-related illness caused or made worse by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (new or long-standing)
The figures in themselves present as shocking. But analysis against previous year statistics shows concerning trends which correlate to the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.
Work-related stress, depression or anxiety
Whilst in in the recent years prior to the pandemic, the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety had shown signs of increasing, in 2020/21 the rate was higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels. High workloads, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work were estimated to be the main causes of such prior to the pandemic. In 2020/21 the effects of the pandemic were also found to be a major contributory factor. It is of little surprise that industries with higher than average rates included health and social work, public administration and education.
It is reported that 93,000 workers were suffering from COVID-19 in 2020/21 which they believe may have been from exposure to coronavirus at work. Around half of these were in health and social work industries. But reliably identifying the source of exposure of COVID-19, which is already widely prevalent in the community, is inherently difficult. It is accepted that these self-reported figures may be either under or overestimations of the true scale.
Obviously, one workplace death is one too many. There has been little change in the rate of occupational fatalities in recent years despite the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, the rate of non-fatal injury to workers showed a generally downward trend. In 2020/21 the rate was much lower than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels. This may perhaps be to the emergence of home-working and furlough.
Industries with significant high ill-health rates were health and social work, public administration and defence and education. Again, this perhaps comes as no surprise given the pressures upon our key workers.
Agriculture, construction and retail had statistically significantly higher injury rates than for all industries. This appears to have stubbornly remained so despite the pandemic.
The UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU. Compared to other large European countries, the 2018 UK fatal injury rate was lower than France, Spain, Italy, Poland and the EU average. In 2013 the UK rates of non-fatal injuries and work related ill health, resulting in sick leave, compared favourably with many EU countries.
It is accepted that raw statistics alone can give little insight and may appear cold and removed. We must remember that these are lives. This relates to the vast majority of our population who work as a necessary means of sustaining themselves and their dependents.
But the importance of the statistics, as part of larger trends, cannot be overestimated. I agree with HSE’s Chief Executive Sarah Albon who states that their purpose is to “help to inform the measures HSE, employers, policy-makers and workers themselves need to take to ensure everyone can go home from work safe and well”.
It remains fundamental, now more than ever, that each and every worker deserves to come home at the end of the work day.