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Workplace injuries hit 10-year high

Published: 6 November 2020 - Victoria White

The number of work-related injuries in the UK has reached its highest level in a decade.

Analysis carried out by JMW Solicitors into data released by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that workplace-related injuries have increased over the last three years to a similar level as ten years ago, with a total of 693,000 non-fatal injuries occurring in 2019/20, the highest recorded number since 724,000 in 2009/10.

Over the last year, the number of non-fatal workplace injuries increased by 19% from 581,000 in 2018/19, according to HSE’s data.

Richard Powell, head of personal injury at JMW Solicitors, said: “Regular checks should be carried out in the workplace, as a seemingly safe workplace can hide serious health and safety risks likely to cause harm to employees, visitors or members of the public. Injuries in the workplace can vary in severity, with many - like head and spinal injuries - seriously disrupting an individual’s ability to live a normal life.

Reports also indicated that the number of days lost due to non-fatal injuries has increased by 34% over the last year; from 4.7 million in 2018/19 to 6.3 million in 2019/20.

The most common cause of accidents in the workplace reported in 2019/20 was slips, trips and falls, responsible for 29% of the year’s total injuries. This was followed by:

  • Handling, lifting or carrying - 19%
  • Struck by moving object -11%
  • Acts of violence - 9%
  • Falls from height - 8%

“Every level of an organisation should be involved in managing health and safety. Training directors, line managers and workers to be more aware of risks and understand what action needs to be taken will help to promote a safe and healthy workplace. In reality, it may be impractical to prevent every imaginable hazard, but no one wants to think that they could have done more if an accident were to occur,” Mr Powell added.

Despite increases in the number of non-fatal injuries in the workplace, the value of fines collected from employers found in breach of HSE guidelines and the number of cases resulting in a conviction are at their lowest since the stricter guidelines were introduced in 2016.

The 2019/20 data on prosecutions shows a drop in the total amount of fines issued, decreasing to £35.8 million from £55.3 million in the previous year. The average value of fines has also fallen to £110,000 from £150,000, while the number of cases resulting in a conviction has dropped to 325 cases prosecuted from 368.

In response to the report, Sarah Newton, HSE Chair said: “The Covid pandemic has focused attention on the health and safety issues people face in the workplace. HSE remains committed to taking action where workers are not protected, to ensure the guidance and assistance we provide for employers in managing risks is the best available, based on the latest evidence and science.

“Although Great Britain continues to be up there with the safest places in the world to work, these figures highlight the scale of the challenge HSE currently faces in making Britain an even healthier and safer place to work, this includes our role in the response to the pandemic to ensure workplaces are COVID secure.

“We must continue to drive home the importance of managing risk and promoting behaviours to ensure employers work right so that workers are able to go home healthy and safe at the end of each day.”

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