Workplace health

Introduction

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that each year, significant numbers of workers are injured at work or made ill by their work or their workplace. 

This costs business and the economy through lost production, healthcare and insurance, administration and legal costs.  Human costs are measured in terms of the impact on the individual’s quality of life and for fatal injuries, loss of life and consequentially, on families.

Latest estimates show that annually over 600,000 workers are injured in workplace accidents and a further 500,000 workers suffer a new case of ill health which they believe is caused or made worse by their work.  

Poor health and safety practices greatly increases the risk of workplace accidents and ill-health, presenting a risk to both employees and others visiting or affected by a business. The exact causes vary but not seeking advice or adhering to good practice puts significant numbers of employees and others at risk.

Key inequalities and risk factors

  • Unskilled and manual workers are at higher risk of injury and ill-health, with additionally increasing numbers of stress-related conditions.
  • With professional and skilled workers less likely to experience such issues, of the working population those most at risk are also more likely to be in poverty.
  • Self-reported sickness absence data also suggest that workers across local government suffer high levels of work-related stress
  • Shift workers are more likely than non shift workers to be obese
  • the prevalence of obesity for women in unskilled occupations is almost twice that of those in professional occupations. The overall pattern is similar for men: those in professional occupations have lower obesity prevalence than any other group
  • Managerial, professional and intermediate populations are less likely to smoke than routine manual or unemployed people

Facts, figures and trends

The statistical summary of the HSE Annual Report 2014/15 states that work place accidents and ill-health lead to an estimated:

  • 2 million people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 142 fatalities at work (a rate of 0.46 fatalities per 100,000 workers)
  • 611,00 injuries at work (2,030 per 100,000 workers and of these injuries, 198,000 led to over-3-days absence from work and 152,000 led to over-7-days absence

This led to 27.3 million working days lost of which 23.3 million were lost to ill health and 4.1 million days lost to injuries. The total costs were £14.9 billion in 2013/14.

Great Britain has one of the best health and safety records in the world, although the HSE identified that the rate of improvements in rates of death, injury and work-related ill-health has notably slowed in recent years.  Building on the 2009 Be Part of the Solution Strategy, Helping Great Britain work well: A new health and safety system strategy 2016 is a demonstration of greater commitment at national level which sets out six strategic themes to drive improvement at business at individual level.

In the 2014/15 period, the most common conditions which can be caused or made worse by work were stress, musculoskeletal disorders, skin disease and asthma.  Long-term health impacts reported were: asbestos related diseases, cancers, hearing loss, respiratory disease and vibration related diseases.

The number and rate of fatal injuries to workers has been in decline since 1995 although the rate is higher in people who are self-employed compared to those who are employees:

Work activity can present both physical and psychosocial risk factors.  Of the physical factors, the most common kinds of accident were caused by slips and trips, handling, lifting or carrying, and being struck by moving objects.  Of the psychosocial factors, dealing with difficult customers, time pressure and long hours were the most common cited.

RIDDOR data (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) for Bracknell Forest indicates that the rate of all employee injuries recorded between 2012/13 and 20/15 has fallen and is lower than the rates in the south east and the England rate.  The figure is lower as there were no fatal injuries recorded in this time period:

The rate of employee injuries lasting more than 7 days between 2012/13 and 20/15 was much lower than the south east and England figures:

Industry specific variances

There are a number of specific industries which are prone to poorer health outcomes. The following data is from the Health and Safety Executive (2013) and respresents available data (accessed 26/07/2016):

  • Between 2011/12 and 2012/13 there were a total of 267 workplace injuries recorded in Bracknell Forest. These were categorised into over-7-day injuries, over-3-day injuries and non-fatal major injuries.
  • The industry with the highest number of injuries that lasted over 7 days was retail trade, in which 23 injuries were recorded in 2012/13 in Bracknell Forest.
  • The industry with the highest number of injuries that last over 3 days was human health activities. These include healthcare professionals in hospitals or practises, dentistry and medical care in nursing homes. 30 injuries were recorded in Bracknell Forest in 2011/12.
  • The industry with the highest number of non-fatal major injuries was education, with a count of 5 injuries in 2011/12. In 2012/13, this shifted to postal and courier services, with a count of 2 non-fatal major injuries.
  • Despite previous historic reductions in accident numbers, illness levels have continued to increase overall and even accidents now appear to be no longer reducing. Those most affected are manual and lower skilled workers, likely to be on lower incomes and in more vulnerable groups.

Regulation and enforcement

Local authorities undertake an oversight role for certain types of premises (e.g. offices and shops) and the HSE publishes local authority specific data sets for workplace injuries in these sectors. They additionally produce policy and other guidance for local authorities to use when contacting employers in their area.

Local authorities are also employers, and they too are provided with relevant advice and information.  For example, many reported slips and trips involve members of the public, including pupils at local authority schools and a proportion of reported manual handling injuries occur while moving and handling clients and equipment in social care.

Within Bracknell Forest Council, the health and safety function is located within Regulatory Services; within the Environment and Public Protection Division of Environment, Culture and Communities. The work is carried out by the Health and Safety Team, which is made up of both Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers from the Business and Consumer Team, and involves not only general health and safety but additionally firework and petroleum safety.

There is no legal requirement for businesses to register with the council for general health and safety purposes.  The team therefore maintains specific local knowledge of the nature and type of businesses within Bracknell Forest by using data sources such as complaints received, inspection data, reported accidents, and business rate registrations.

At 2016, Bracknell Forest Council has health and safety responsibilities for 1,549 premises including offices, shops, warehouses, builders' merchants and services such as hairdressers, as shown in the chart below: 

Although the Bracknell Forest workforce is diverse, in comparison with other similar council areas, Bracknell Forest has lower numbers of wholesalers and warehouses, and higher proportions of offices, retail and leisure businesses.

Working pattern

A number of Bracknell Forest companies employ people on rotational, shift patterns. Comparisons showed a number of areas where shift workers’ health differed from non shift workers’. Both men and women in shift work were more likely to report fair or bad general health (28% of both sexes) than non shift workers (21% and 23%). Shift workers were also more likely to have a limiting longstanding illness (25% of men, 28% of women) than non shift workers (19% and 24% respectively).

Shift workers were more likely than non shift workers to be obese. This is reflected in higher mean body mass index (BMI) measurements, higher proportions classified as obese, and greater proportions with a very high waist circumference (see Figure 11 below). Perhaps related to this, men and women in shift work were more likely than non shift workers to have diabetes (10% of both men and women in shift work, compared with 9% and 7% respectively of others).

Current cigarette smoking prevalence was higher among shift workers than non shift workers.28% of men in shift work currently smoked compared with 23% of other men in employment. The difference was even greater for women where 26% of shift workers currently smoked compared with 15% of non shift workers.

Regeneration

Research evidence suggests that unemployment, or employment in jobs with poor working conditions, is generally damaging for health. 

Regeneration will bring more opportunities for employment to all people the local community including people with disabilities and older people, however, it will also bring about a shift in the demographic of the local population as Bracknell Forest becomes a more desirable place to live.  A changing demographic will also place additional burdens and stresses on services and, potentially, the people that are employed in delivering them.

Employee health programmes

According to NICE guidance:

  • Workplace physical activity programmes can reduce absenteeism by up to 20%
  • Physically active workers take 27% fewer sick days
  • Workplace programmes that keeping people healthy increase employee job satisfaction
  • Job satisfaction helps reduce staff turnover by between 10 and 25%

The Workplace Wellbeing Charter is an initiative which provides employers of all sizes with an easy and clear guide on how to make workplaces a supportive and productive environment in which employees can flourish. 

It describes how work place well-being programmes impact on reduced sickness absence, improved productivity and reduced staff turnover which is good for productivity and the wider economy.  The website also contains links to a range of sector and issue specific resources.

The Bracknell Forest Public Health team can signpost employers to “Health MOTs” and offer guidance and support for developing worked-based health development programmes.  Contact public.health@bracknell-forest.gov.uk for more general information. Or environmental.health@bracknell-forest.gov.uk for help or guidance on specific health and safety related issues.

Want to know more?

Costs to Britain Report 2013/14 (Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 2015) -  sets out estimates of both financial (or direct) costs incurred - either in terms of payments that have to be made or income/production that is lost and monetary value of the impact on quality and loss of life of affected workers (referred to as the non-financial costs) - often the greatest impact of illness and injury.

Education sector (HSE, 2015) - information and data on health and safety issues in pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher education.

Health and Social Care sector (HSE, 2015) – information and data on health and safety issues in primary care settings, residential care and the social work profession.

Health and Safety Law Enforcement Plan 2016-17 (Bracknell Forest Council, 2016) – sets out a graduated approach based on risk to public health, including both employees and others who may be affected by the operation of a business including customers and the wider public against five basic principles: Targeting – taking a risk based approach; Proportionality – only intervening where necessary; Accountability – able to explain and justify service levels and decisions; Consistency – apply standards consistently to all; and,  Transparency – open and user-friendly.

Health at work (British Heart Foundation, 2016) – web based resources for employers to help address impact of alcohol in the work place for individual and organisational wellbeing.

Local authority regulation – dedicated website resources and information about the role and responsibilities of local authorities in health and safety and also separate guidance as employers, providers or procurers of local services.

Local Action on Health Inequalities: Increasing employment opportunities and improving workplace health (Public Health England, 2014) - a summary of evidence about  the role of local authotities  and how working with employers can lever opportunities to counter the risks and negative long-term health and wellbeing outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

Promoting physical activity in the workplace (NICE, 2008) - guidance for employers and professionals in small, medium and large organisations, especially those working in human resources or occupational health needing a structured approach to developing, implementing and monitoring multi-component programme to encourage and support employees to be more physically active.

Public administration sector (HSE, 2015) -  information and data on health and safety issues in the public administration sector covering activities of a governmental nature, normally carried out by public administration, including police and justice services.

Workplace health (NICE, 2012) - NICE's recommendations for local authorities and partner organisations on improving workplace health as an employer, and also by encouraging and helping other employers to improve the health of their employees. 

 

This page was created on 27 February 2014 and updated on 22 June 2016.

Cite this page:

Bracknell Forest Council. (2016). JSNA – Workplace health. Available at: jsna.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/living-working-well/healthy-lifestyles/work-place-and-ill-health (Accessed: dd Mmmm yyyy)

 

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