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17 November 2014

UK: rise in work-related illnesses

Statistics recently released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the number of people made ill through work is again rising in the United Kingdom, reversing a long-term downward trend.

The number of new cases of self-reported work-related ill health peaked at 535,000 in 2013/2014, up from 452,000 in 2011/2012. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common type of work-related illness reported. In the last year almost half a million people suffered workplace-related stress, depression or anxiety.

According to the statistics, there are at least 8,000 deaths from occupational cancer each year in Great Britain. More than half of these cancer deaths were caused by past exposure to asbestos. The next four biggest categories of occupational cancer were lung cancer due to silica, diesel engine exhaust, and mineral oils, and breast cancer due to shift work.

The HSE says an estimated 28 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health or injury in 2013/14. The HSE estimates that injuries and new cases of ill health cost society an estimated £14.2 billion (18 billion euros) in 2012/13.

Commenting on the HSE statistics, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The rise in illness and injury should be a wake-up call demanding stronger regulation and enforcement for rogue bosses who put their staff at risk.”

She added: “The Health and Safety Executive does an excellent job with its resources, but the government’s decision to reduce the number of inspections is allowing more rogue bosses to get away with it. It’s both a human tragedy and a false economy to continue with two million people living with an illness caused by work, and 600,000 new workplace injuries a year.”

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