On the eve of the second lockdown, the HSE has released statistics for work-related ill health, workplace injuries, working days lost and enforcement action taken.  The report highlights that in 2019/20 there were;

  • 111 fatal injuries at work
  • 1.6 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 38.8 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • 325 cases were prosecuted and resulted in a conviction
  • Fines from convictions totalled £35.8 million

While those figures underline the significant increase in fines for health and safety breaches,  one concerning statistic is that over half of lost working days in Great Britain are attributed to mental ill-health at a time  when many employees  are dealing with difficult and changing work and personal circumstances. 

The Parliamentary Health and Social Care Select Committee has already commenced an investigation into workforce burnout across the NHS and social care.   It is likely to be too early for the HSE analysis to take into account the impact of Covid-19.  However, there is understandable concern about the increased pressures brought by Covid-19 and the resilience of services to cope with high levels of staff stress. 

The HSE had indicated, prior to the pandemic, that mental health was an issue upon which they would focus.   While they have taken a largely pragmatic and supportive approach to the challenges of responding to Covid-19 risks, these statistics reinforce why it will remain one of their priorities in the short and long term.  

While the impact may be particularly acute in the health and social care sectors, all employers will need to be alert to the additional stains that a second lockdown will bring, in addition to the risks associated with long term home working.