HSC figures show sickness absence rates are on the rise

Deaths and injuries in the workplace fall, while more people take days off

Even though workplace deaths and injuries were down last year, more people
took time off and spent longer periods away from work due to sickness.

Figures from the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) for 2001-2002 estimated
that 2.3 million people suffered an illness during the last 12 months, which
they believed was either caused or made worse by their job.

In total, 40.2 million working days were lost to injury or illness,
according to the HSC.

The figures also show that 249 people were killed – 43 less than the year
before – and there were 27,477 major injuries, down 47.

The three most common causes of work-related deaths were falls from heights
(44 people), being struck by a moving or flying object (43 people) and being
struck by a moving vehicle (40 people).

Slips and trips were the biggest cause of non-fatal workplace injuries,
accounting for more than a third of the total amount.

The three riskiest industries for major injuries were mining (803 cases per
100,000 workers), the water industry (652 cases) and railways (631 cases).

Of days lost due to illness, 13.4 million were attributed to stress, anxiety
or depression, and 12.3 million to musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs).

An estimated 1.1 million people suffered from MSDs, while a further 563,000
were affected by stress. Over the last 12 months, there were an estimated
265,000 new cases of stress.

The riskiest industries in terms of self-reported illness were agriculture
and forestry.

HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said: "Stress and MSDs are the areas we
have already targeted as priorities."


Key findings:

– Annual worker fatalities decreased by 15 per cent to 249 in

– The rate of reported major injuries to employees dropped by
0.6 per cent to 109.5 in 2001-2002

– The rate of injuries to employees that last more than three
days dropped by 6 per cent to 506.3 in 2001-2002

– During the last 12 months, 2.3 million individuals were
suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their
current or previous job

– In the previous 12 months, 33 million working days were lost
through illness caused or made worse by work

– The average amount of time off work among all those suffering
illnesses was 23 days in 2001-2002 compared to 14 days in 1995

– Mesothelioma deaths stand at more than 1,600 a year, and
asbestosis benefit cases at about 460. Mesothelioma deaths at ages below 55 are

– The number of disablement benefit cases of occupational deafness
has fallen over time, as have the exposure levels of lead workers under medical

– The estimated number of new cases of occupational asthma and
contact dermatitis have remained fairly constant in recent years at almost
1,000 and 3,000-3,500 cases a year respectively

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