The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) annual report captures statistics relative to work-related ill health, workplace injuries, enforcement action and the associated costs. Below is a summary of what we assess to be the three key take-aways from the publication; for a full version of the report please follow the link to the HSE's website.

Work-Related Ill Health

The report reveals that figures for work-related ill health continued to increase this year, with around 1.6 million workers suffering from a new or long-standing work-related illness. A substantial increase can be seen in the total number of working days lost due to work-related ill health, up from 23.5 million last year to 38.8 million in 2019/2020. Of this, 55% were due to stress, depression or anxiety and 27% to musculoskeletal disorders, for example caused by manual handling, keyboard work or repetitive action.

The report details that 638,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, which is up from 602,000 in 2018-19. Workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work are detailed as the main causes. This is a key statistic that has steadily risen in recent years and is anticipated to rise even further in 2020-2021 following the Covid-19 crisis, which has seen the majority of workers affected by home-working or furlough.

An interesting change can be seen in reporting of workplace injuries in 2019-20. Around 693,000 workers self-reported non-fatal injuries (up from 581,000) and 65,427 employee non-fatal injuries were reported by employers (down from 69,208). These changes equate to an increase of 1.7 million more missed working days in 2019-2020 than 2018-2019 due to non-fatal workplace injuries. The increase in self-reporting may be due to the substantial move to home-working due to Covid-19.

Workplace Fatalities

The rate of workplace fatalities decreased in 2019-2020, down to 111 workers from 147 in 2018-19. The rate of fatal injury has shown a generally downward trend but has been broadly flat in recent years. The decrease in deaths may be explained in part due to the effect national lockdowns have had on workplaces over the last year.

Falls from height remain the most common cause of fatalities in the workplace (29 people), followed by being struck by a moving vehicle (20 people) or moving object (18 people). Construction remains the industry most likely to have fatal accidents. As with last year's report, the United Kingdom is noted as having the lowest rate of fatal injuries of all large EU economies.

Economic Cost and Enforcement

The HSE report estimates the total annual economic cost to Great Britain of work-related injuries and ill health is £16.2 billion; an increase on the figure from 2017-18 of £15 billion. The total includes financial costs (such as loss of output and healthcare costs) and human costs (such as monetary valuation given to pain, grief, suffering and loss of life). The annual cost of workplace injury is £5.6 billion.

In terms of enforcement, the report outlines a further fall in the number of prosecuted cases where a conviction was achieved (from 364 to 325); a substantial fall in the number of notices issued by enforcing bodies (from 11,040 to 7,705); and a substantial year on year fall in total fines imposed from £54.5 million down to £35.8 million. owever, busine. Whilst the total fines level is decreasing, so too are the number of prosecutions being completed. Only 325 cases were prosecuted in 2019/2020, down from 493 cases in 2018/2019. Accordingly, we can see that in individual cases fines are increasing. For employers and business owners, health and safety is as important as ever.

The statistics show that even in a very different year, some elements of health and safety remain the same. As with last year, the reduction of HSE enforcement actions is interesting however arguably the increase in instances of work-related stress, depression or anxiety is a key take away for employers. Putting in place strong health and safety procedures and policies is the most essential prevention strategy in protecting against workplace ill health, injuries, and enforcement action by the HSE.


Victoria Anderson

Senior Associate