On 22nd November, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its annual statistics on work related ill-health and workplace injuries for the 2022/23 period.

The HEADLINE figures …

  • 1.8 million cases of work-related illness, of which are:
    • 875,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety
    • 473,000 cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorder
  • 60,645injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR by employers
  • 135 workers killed in work-related accidents
  • 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £20.7 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions

Work-related mental illness on the rise?

The figures continue to reveal a worrying trend with cases of stress, depression and anxiety making up around half the estimated number of workers in Great Britain suffering from a work-related illness. Whilst there is a decrease in the reported figures from 914,000 (2021/22) to 875,000 (2022/23), the current rate is higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus pandemic level.

In November 2021, HSE launched its 'Working Minds' campaign to address the lack of knowledge in the workplace concerning work-related stress. The campaign brought together a variety of organisations who worked collectively to address a key strategic priority – reduce work-related stress

and improve mental health in the workplace. HSE started the campaign with five key partner organisations who were specific to their target audience of SMEs. This included some who were experienced in dealing with mental health such as MIND and others representing specific industry sectors. Over the past year, HSE have expanded this network to 20 organisations, including the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). HSE have developed a network of more than 1,000 Working Mind champions, who have been tasked with providing employers with information about their duty to control and prevent the risks that cause work-related stress. In addition to hosting webinars and speaking at events and conferences, HSE have more than 3,700 subscribers who receive monthly updates and information packs. This information helps them to spot the signs that can cause work-related stress and gives parity to the management of risks to mental health and physical health in the workplace. HSE state in their annual 2022/23 report (published July 2023) that their campaign is having an impact, as 61% of respondents to a survey said that they had talked about work-related stress because of the campaign.

Whilst the figures have decreased over the last year, it will be interesting to see over the coming years whether there will be any change in the overall increasing trend of cases of stress, depression and anxiety in the workplace. Reducing work-related ill health, with a specific focus on mental health and stress, is also one of the HSE’s five strategic objectives as set out in its 2023/24 Business Plan.

A downward trend for non-fatal and fatal workplace incidents?

RIDDOR reported non-fatal injuries decreased from 61,713 (2021/22) to 60,645 (2022/23). This shows an overall downward trend, and the current rate is similar to the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus pandemic level.

However, this year saw an increase in fatalities in the workplace from 123 (2021/22) to 135 (2022/2023). Again, the overall rate of fatal injuries shows a long-term downward trend since 2012/13, but this has been broadly flat in recent years. The UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury compared to other large European economies.

Enforcement

HSE published it enforcement statistics in its 2022/23 annual report. 86% of investigations into fatal incidents were completed within 12 months of receiving primacy against a target of 80%. 95% of investigations into non-fatal incidents were completed with 12 months against a target of 90%. HSE completed over 16,800 inspections, including 2,348 inspections of construction sites under a planned campaign. It issued over 8,000 enforcement notices and recouped investigatory costs of over £14 million in accordance with its 'Fee for Intervention' scheme.

HSE completed 216 prosecutions of cases of health and safety breaches, compared to 290 cases in 2021/22, with a 94% conviction rate. There has been an overall downward trend in the number of prosecutions since 2016. This is likely due to the introduction of a sentencing guideline for health and safety prosecutions that came into force in February 2016, which has led to prosecutions taking longer. HSE has stated that it remains committed to prosecuting where there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to do so, and HSE continues to review the factors which impinge on its prosecution work.

What to expect in 2024?

There have been no significant changes to those industries in which there is a higher risk of sustaining an injury while at work, with construction and agriculture still amongst the high-risk sectors. We can expect a continued focus on these sectors. HSE’s priorities as set out in its 2023/24 Business Plan include (i) reducing work-related ill health, with a specific focus on mental health and stress, (ii) increasing and maintaining trust to ensure people feel safe where they live, where they work and, in their environment, (iii) enabling industry to innovate safely to prevent major incidents, whilst supporting the move towards net zero, and (iv) maintaining Great Britain’s record as one of the safest countries to work in.

With regard to the mental health and wellbeing of Great Britain’s workforce Sarah Albon, HSE’s Chief Executive, has commented in response to the statistics: “Preventing or tackling work-related stress can provide significant benefits to employees, improving their experience of work and their overall health; and also to employers including increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.

Overall, it is likely that these statistics will incentivise the HSE to be more rigorous with their inspections and investigations to prevent future work place injuries, illness and fatalities. We recommend that organisations continue to review and update their health and safety procedures and policies in line with HSE guidance, ensure that they are implemented by the workforce without creating new risks, and ensure that they are prepared for a visit from the HSE at all times by having a plan in place.