The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Every year, thousands of workers become ill or injured in the workplace. Whilst many of us don’t face the threat of fatal accidents or diseases on a daily basis, industrial and manufacturing workers do. The workers facing the biggest threat are those in construction, agriculture, waste and recycling. This is due to heavy machinery, repetitive lifting and exposure to chemicals amongst others. Slips, trips and falls also contribute towards the number of serious injuries and fatalities. Almost two thirds of these incidents involve male workers – a figure reflective of the makeup of these industries.
So what about illness? There are two main types of illness that occur in the workplace; long latency conditions and common health conditions. Both can result in workers needing to take time from work to recuperate – in fact 2011/2012 saw workers take a huge 22.7 million days off for this reason.
Long latency conditions include various cancers (mostly lung and mesothelioma) which are often brought on by exposure to asbestos and mineral oils. Asbestos also causes huge problems and it can take many years after exposure for symptoms to start. This is one of the reasons the fatality rate from workplace illness has been so high in recent years – before asbestos was pronounced unsafe many workers were exposed to it on a daily basis. Respitory diseases like COPD, asthma and silicosis asre also very common and can be both developed in and made worse by work. If you have ever been exposed to asbestos, mineral oils, dusts or other substances on a regular basis it is worth regularly having you health checked.
Other more common illnesses include musculoskeletal disorders which occur mostly in agriculture, construction and postal workers. Skin diseases are also a problem with skin cancer and dermatitis being the most common. Stress is one illness which can strike a person in any profession but is most common in office workers.
Take a look at the infographic from Westermans International for more figures and information.
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Fatal and Non-Fatal Injuries in the Workplace
During the 2012/13 period…
148 workers were killed at work, at a rate of 0.5 per 100,000
78,222 non-fatal injuries to workers were reported under RIDDOR, a rate of 311.6 per 100,000
175,000 reportable injuries (defined as over 7-day absence) occurred according to the Labour Force Survey, a rate of 610 per 100,000
Working Days Lost
During the Period 2011/12
27 Million days were lost overall due to work-related ill health or injury (17 days per case).
4.3 Million due to work inury.
22.7 Milion due to work-related ill health.
Of the main industrial sectors, construction, agriculture, and waste and recyling have the highest rates, 39, 29, and 10 fatal injuries to workers, respectively.
Major Accidents Recorded
78,222 non-fatal injuries.
18,707 were major injuries.
The most common major accidencts involved slips or trips (43%) and falls from height (13%).
There were 58,515 reported over 7-day injuries. The most common accidents were caused by handling, lifting, or carrying (27%) and slips or trips (26%).
Major Injuries by Gender
12,6776 major injuries to males.
7,021 major injuries to females.
Nearly twice as many men as women suffered a major injury.
However, there was little gender differnece for slips and trips. 4,175 females had slip.trip injuries, compared to 4,234 males. (There are roughly the same number of men and women in the workforce).
Current annual deaths due to work-related diseases (with casual agents in brackets)
Lung cancer (asbestos)*
Lung cancer (silica)*
Lung cancer (diesel engine exhaust)*
Breast cancer (shiftwork)*
Lung cancer (mineral oils)*
COPD† (dust, gases, vapours, fumes)*
* Figures are estimted based on epidemlogical data and are subject to considerable uncertianty
† Research is underway to identify more specific causal agents fo COPD
Most of these diseases take many years to develop and so deaths occurring now are largely a result of past workplace conditions.
Number of fatal injuries to workers
22: South East
15: Yorkshire & the Humber
15: North West
22: West Midlands
12: South West
07: East Midlands
02: North East
Rate of over 3 day absence per 100,000 workers
(3 year average 2010/11 – 2012/13)
970: North East
960: East Midlands
830: South West
810: West Midlands
790: North West
790: Yorkshire & The Humber
640: South East
Workplace injries and ill health (excluding cancer) cost society an estimated:
£13.8 billion in 2010/11 (based on 2011 prices).
Of the total cost 2010/11, workplace illness cost society an estimated:
£8.4 billion workplace injury (including fatalities) cost society an estimated:
Fatal and Non-Fatal Injuries in the Workplace – An infographic by the team at Westermans International