On Thursday 16 December, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its annual work-related ill-health, injury and enforcement statistics. Once again the statistics remind us of the increasing importance of mental health and wellbeing in the work place. No doubt exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE's report confirms the clear upward trend in workers reporting work-related stress, depression and anxiety. As outlined here by my colleague, Lorna Kenyon-Pain, all employers would be well advised to take note of the HSE's Working Minds campaign to promote good mental health and to prevent and manage work-related stress.
On reading the HSE's report, it struck me that there might also be lessons for other regulators in considering the success that the HSE has had in addressing other work-related injuries. The report confirms that there is an equally clear pattern of decreasing levels of work place injuries overall. Over the last 20 years, the total levels of work-related injuries have fallen steadily from 4,000 per 100,000 workers to around 1,000 per 100,000 workers.
That apparent success comes against a pattern of decreased levels of prosecutions brought by the HSE. While the report only provides data for the last five years, the HSE brought just under 700 prosecutions in 2015/16 and that number has fallen year-on-year to around 300 in 2019/20 and 200 in 2020/21. Instead, the HSE has been notable for the level of guidance and support provided to those it regulates, with the Working Minds campaign being just one example.
That of course contrasts with the approach being taken by the CQC in the care sector, with an increasingly aggressive strategy of enforcement action and a commitment to increase the level of prosecutions they bring. While the HSE will no doubt want to consider how they can address the rising number of stress related injuries, the CQC may wish to consider the words of the HSE's chief executive, Sarah Albon and whether they too could achieve 'the best and quickest results' by acting as a truly 'proportionate and enabling regulator'.
“HSE continues to act as a proportionate and enabling regulator taking the most appropriate actions to achieve the best and quickest result. However, where employers fall short of expected standards, HSE will not hesitate to hold those responsible to account.”