Fewer than one in 10 people made ill or injured by their work ever receive compensation from the state or their employer, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said.
The finding quashed the belief that the UK is gripped by a compensation culture, it added.
Its study estimated that around 850,000 people a year suffered an accident or developed a disease as a result of their job, but that no more than 80,000 received any compensation from their employer or the state.
Every year, 60,000 injured or ill workers applied for assistance under the Department for Work and Pensions’ Industrial Injuries Benefits Scheme, but fewer than half were successful, and even the majority of successful claims received no cash payout.
Occupational deafness, breathing disorders and vibration white finger were the work-related ailments most likely to receive compensation, with repetitive strain injury and stress sufferers more likely to lose out.
There were just 3,000 successful strain injury cases in 2001 – a year when the Health and Safety Executive had estimated that almost half a million people developed work-related strain problems, it added.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The way to end the UK’s disposable worker culture is not higher and more compensation payouts, it’s for more employers to take their health and safety responsibilities more seriously.”