Work-related illness and injury still unacceptably high

The number of people suffering from work-related ill-health has not changed in the past year, despite employers giving the issue a higher priority.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that about 2,200,000 people suffered from ill-health that they considered to be work-related in 2003-04, about 100,000 fewer than reported in 2001-02.

The self-reported work-related illness survey also said that around three quarters of cases of work-related illness were musculoskeletal disorders or stress, although lung diseases, such as asthma, contact dermatitis and other skin disorders, vibration or noise-related disorders and diarrhoel diseases were also commonplace.

About 6,000 people die each year from cancer because of past risk-related exposure at work, with 1,900 deaths in 2002 from mesothelioma.
Ill-health prevalence rates were highest in the north-east of England, Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside, the HSE found.

The data showed a fall in the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders and a levelling off of earlier rises in work-related stress.

The estimated number of cases of asthma and dermatitis fell, too, although asthma-related cancers rose.

There were 235 fatal injuries to workers in 2003-04, up 4 per cent on 2002-03 (227). Around half of these occurred in construction and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The number of reported major injuries was up 9 per cent, with service industries, notably public administration, the most dangerous, and the majority caused by slipping and tripping, said the HSE.

The number of reported over-three-day injuries increased by 0.7 per cent to 129,143 of which two-fifths were caused by handling, lifting and carrying.

Health and safety commission chairman Bill Callaghan said occupational injuries and ill-health were still at “unacceptably high levels”.

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