The 2019 HSE Report: Is UK health and safety getting better or worse?

Thursday November 28, 2019

It’s that time of year again, when the HSE publishes its annual health and safety report on occupational welfare across the nation.

It was a mixed bag with some of the stats showing marginal improvement and others getting slightly worse. In the period looked at, the annual cost of work-related ill health jumped by £100 million to £9.8 billion.

Today we’ll look at some of these key issues. Don’t forget, we can support you in following the best health and safety practice so you don’t become one of the statistics.

Injury time – an improving picture?

The HSE’s annual report says 581,000 people suffered an injury while at work. While there is a welcome downward trend over the long term, this actually represents a small spike this year (555,000 were reported injured in 2018).

It seems more employers are taking steps towards better management of the risks. That’s good news. Slips, trips, and falls are still reported as being the number one cause of non-fatal injury (29% of cases), with handling, lifting and carrying being the number two cause (20% of cases).

Education will always help cultivate high safety standards among your workforce. Put a training programme in place that shows your employees how to lift heavy objects in the right way. The same goes for using protective equipment correctly.

Are your staff numbers at appropriate levels? Overworked employees are more likely to experience lapses in concentration and hurt themselves.

Even something obvious like tidy premises can help.

The UK has always had one of the lowest rates of fatal injury in the EU. In the past year, 147 employees sadly died at work. This was broadly flat when compared with the 144 who died the year before.

A good result for the business

The number of working days lost to work-related illness or injury has fallen. This year it fell by more than 8% to 28.2 million. That’s a win for productivity and shows how good health and safety can benefit your business, and the whole country at a national level.

Positive trends in prosecution

This year the number of prosecuted cases fell to 364, 26% less than the year before. The number of notices also dropped marginally to 11,040. Slow but steady progress. Fines also fell by around 25% to £54.5 million because they completed fewer cases. The average value of a fine was no less severe and remains flat.

Mental health – room for improvement

Workplace stress continues to plague employees and employers. 12.8 million working days have vanished as a result. Whether it’s workload or a lack of support. Bullying, threats, or even violence, they all contribute to work-related stress. Effective support and practical solutions have become top priorities for many companies.

There are a lot of workers who need that help. 602,000 suffered from work-related stress across 2018/19. It’s a worrying trend that’s on the up. It’s important to try different preventative approaches to see what works best. Every business is different.

Mindfulness groups or independent counselling services can help, as can well-placed signposting. Mental health first aid training is now a recognised and effective tool for the workplace. It allows for early intervention to ensure that people struggling with mental health get the help they need fast.

The nature of industry

Of course, if you work in a sector that’s inherently high risk, you’ll already know about it. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and then construction are the most common for injury. Whereas electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply; public administration/defence and human health/social work are where ill health is most prevalent.

Earlier this year, the HSE took action in the agricultural industry to help improve health and safety. Perhaps a different high-risk industry will be the new target in 2020.

The bigger picture

The HSE’s research is a useful way of viewing the bigger picture when it comes to health and safety in the UK. It also highlights important lessons from which any business can learn.

We want to help you avoid the human and financial costs that may arise from health and safety mistakes. An independent review of your health and safety policies could make all the difference. Call our expert team or send us an email today.

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