Mental ill health accounted for more than half of sickness absence in last year

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A total of 38.8 million working days were lost because of work-related illness and workplace injury in 2019/20, with more than half of the sickness absence caused by mental ill health, according to latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The annual HSE “Health and Safety at Work” statistics also concluded that Covid-19, while likely to have been a contributory factor, did not appear to be “the main driver of changes seen in the 2019/20 data”.

In all, around 693,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries in 2019/2020 and 1.6 million workers suffered from work-related ill health.

There were 111 fatal injuries at work, and 65,427 injuries to employees were reported under the RIDDOR regulations. A total of 325 cases were prosecuted and resulted in a conviction. Fines from convictions totalled £35.8m, the HSE said.

The estimated cost of all this to the British economy was £16.2bn, it calculated.

Drilling down into the figures, of the 1.6 million suffering from work-related ill health, 638,000 of these were from a new case in 2019/20. Of the 38.3 million days lost, 32.5 million of these were down to work-related ill health.

A total of 828,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, with 347,000 of these new cases in the past year. A total of 17.9 million working days – so more than half of the 32.5 million total – were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, with rates of self-reporting increasing in recent years. A lack of support violence, threats, bullying or changes at work were estimated to be main causes of this.

When it came to musculoskeletal disorders, 480,000 workers were suffering from these conditions, with 152,000 new cases in the past year. MSKs accounted for 8.9 million of the total of working days lost. Manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard or repetitive actions were the main causes of musculoskeletal disorders, the HSE added.

There were 2,446 mesothelioma deaths in 2018 because of past exposure to asbestos, the HSE said. Alongside this, there were an estimated 12,000 lung disease deaths each year related to past exposures at work, with 17,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year on average over the past three years.

There had been 174 new cases of occupational asthma seen by chest physicians in 2019, with evidence of an increase in the rate of new cases over recent years, it added.

HSE chair Sarah Newton said of the figures: “The Covid pandemic has focused attention on the health and safety issues people face in the workplace. 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,” she added.

The full statistics can be found here.

One Response to Mental ill health accounted for more than half of sickness absence in last year

  1. Avatar
    Nora Josh 9 Nov 2020 at 9:46 am #

    Another factor is bullying in the workplace. Bullying is also an important factor of mental illness which affects the productivity of the workers. It is the need of time to address this issue on the national level.

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