What do the HSE statistics of 2023 mean?

They show in detail the true cost to both workers and employers of health and safety risks at work and demonstrate how important it is to have policies and procedures in place that keep both the workforce and members of the public protected.

The statistics, which were published at the end of November 2023 show that work-related ill-health affected almost 1.8 million workers in the year 2022/23. Almost half (875,000) of those cases were due to stress, depression or anxiety. This has increased noticeably after the COVID pandemic.

With many companies feeling the pressure post-pandemic, it’s worth noting that the HSE figures show around 35 million working days were lost during 2022/23 because of work-related ill health or injury. 3.7 million of those were related to non-fatal workplace injuries.

The cost of these lost days to employers who are struggling to stay in business is significant – the estimated annual costs of workplace injury and new cases of work-related ill health reached £20.7 billion, representing a £1.9 billion increase compared with 2019/20. New cases accounted for £13.1 billion of that total.

The personal cost is highlighted in the statistics; 135 workers were killed in work-related accidents in 2022/23.

561,000 workers were injured, and for a sizeable proportion of those, their injuries will have been life-changing, either delaying their return to work for months or preventing them working again.

 Mental health problems

As we mentioned above, the rate of mental ill-health in the workplace has increased noticeably since the pandemic. Although more employers are now taking mental health seriously, there is still a long way to go, as the figures show.

In 2022/23, 875,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Of those, 338,000 were new cases. Mental health problems caused 17.1 million working days lost.

Musculoskeletal problems

There is still a significant section of the economy that relies on manual labour and physical effort and that’s reflected in the number of workers who are suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.

473,000 workers were suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (new or longstanding) in 2022/23. Of those, 132,000 experienced a disorder for the first time.

In total, these disorders led to 6.6 million working days being lost.

For many workers, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders can be reduced by health and safety procedures that address the hazards posed by manual and physical labour but it’s clear from the figures that more needs to be done by employers to anticipate and mitigate the risks.

Breathing and lung problems

In many industries, workers are exposed to hazards that can cause lung and breathing problems, and sometimes these hazards are unsuspected until long after exposure has taken place. Statistics show that about 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are believed to be linked to past exposures at work. There were 2,268 Mesothelioma deaths in 2021, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos

Over the past three years, on average, 19,000 estimated new cases of breathing or lung problems were caused or made worse by work each year.

There are detailed HSE guides on the dangers of dust and other substances that can be inhaled and although, as can be seen from the figures, many deaths are linked to past exposure, this is no excuse for inaction now.

Workers face many hazards to their health and safety in the workplace. For employers, it can be overwhelming to start putting protective measures into place, and that’s why the advice, guidance and assistance of a health and safety professional can be invaluable when protecting both the health and safety of your workforce and the future of your business.