Although the number of work-related deaths and serious injuries may be falling, the incidents of stress, bullying and harassment are on the rise.
According to figures published by the Health and Safety Executive, the number of workers that were killed at work dropped to 152 between April 2009 and March 2010, down from 179 the previous year. This is the lowest level on record, amounting to 0.5 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Likewise, the number of serious injuries fell to 26,061 from 27,894 in 2008-2009. But an estimated 1.3 million people were suffering from an illness that was caused or exacerbated by work, up from 1.2 million the previous year.
The situation resulted in the loss of 28.5 million working days, an average of 1.2 days per worker, but the construction and agricultural industries continued to report disproportionate levels of injuries.
Judith Hackitt, the HSE’s chair, said: “Britain remains one of the safest places to work in the EU and we are rightly proud of this record. The challenge now is to focus on those areas where improvement is slow to emerge.”
A survey undertaken by trade union umbrella organisation the TUC among its health and safety reps, meanwhile, revealed that stress is now the single biggest issue facing personnel, with 62% citing it as among the top five problems.
The issue was more prevalent in the public sector (68%) than the private sector (54%), however, and was most common in both large workplaces and London (70%).
Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “Stress can be caused by heavy workloads, cuts in staffing, long hours and bullying. The economic crisis and redundancies have created more anxiety about job security, and as the spending cuts begin to bite and even more jobs start to go, stress at work is bound to increase.”
Second on the list of most common health and safety concerns was bullying and harassment. Some 37% of reps cited this as a top five workplace concern compared with only 20% in 2008. Again the problem was more prevalent in the public than the private sector, in larger workplace and in London-based organisations.