Huge surge in fines for health and safety breaches
The Health and Safety Executive has released its latest statistics on workplace illness and injury in the UK.
Whilst the statistics showed no dramatic change in trends over the past few years, the most noticeable news was the huge rise in the value of fines resulting from prosecution. A massive £69.9 million was raised in fines, up from £38.3 million last year, after new sentencing guidelines came into effect.
Fines now related to turnover, resulting in rise
According to the HSE, the rise is due to the fact that fines are now linked to the turnover of organisations, resulting in large organisations convicted of offences being handed much higher fines than seen prior to the introduction of the new guidelines.
Rise in days off sick
In total, the number of working days lost to work-related ill health and non-fatal injury was up in 2016/17, from 30.4 million to 31.2 million.
The cost to business of workplace injury alone was also up, from £4.8 billion to £5.3 billion.
Whilst workplace deaths themselves have decreased slightly, the estimated number of working days lost due to non-fatal workplace injuries has soared from 4.5 million in 2015/16 to 5.5million in 2016/17.
Mesothelioma continues to kill high numbers
According to the report, deaths from mesothelioma rose slightly in 2015, up to 2542 from 2515, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos. The HSE expects the figure to remain at around the 2500 level for the rest of the decade.
Musculoskeletal disorders cost 9 million working days off sick
Whilst the rate of self-reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders has declined slightly, 8.9 million working days were lost to the complaints in 2016/17. Industries most affected are, as can be expected, construction, agriculture, transportation and health and social work. Manual handling and awkward positions, as well as repetitive work and keyboard use are estimated to be the main causes of such disorders.
Costs of workplace ill health rise
The annual costs of work-related injury and ill health cost Britain £14.9 billion in 2015/16, up from £14.1 billion in the previous period.
UK still compares favourably to EU counterparts
Year upon year, the UK has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury in the EU. Work-related ill health resulting in sick leave was also lower than most other EU countries.
Roberts Jackson’s Head of Legal Operations and Director, Jennifer Dougal commented:
‘It is refreshing to see that the HSE has now linked fines to turnover, and we would hope that this would incentivise businesses to start tackling Health and Safety concerns within their organisations. It is however concerning to see some of these statistics. Employers clearly must do more to protect their employees and prevent ill health in the workplace. Investment in preventative measures does not need to be excessive and can save business’ money in the long run and ultimately save lives which surely can only be a good thing for everyone concerned’.