So says a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Levels of work-related ill health, injury, and exposure to hazards could be much higher than earlier official estimates suggest.
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The report found over three quarters of all workers have workplace health and safety concerns. The Workplace Health and Safety Survey (WHASS) conducted between August and December 2005 surveyed 10,016 workers. This shows a level of work-related ill health more than double that estimated by the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Injuries requiring four or more days absence from work were about 40% higher. For up to date information visit Health and Safety Executive
TUC Head of Safety, Hugh Robertson, welcomed the report and said he would now be asking HSE to review its plans for tackling workplace ill-health.
“This report confirms what many people have said all along - occupational ill-health is a much bigger problem than HSE's earlier estimates have indicated,” he said. “The result is that the response has not reflected the scale of the problem or met the needs of those affected. We must remember that all these illnesses are preventable and we hope the HSE will work with unions and employers to devise an urgent and effective preventive strategy.”
Some of the key findings include:
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- The most widespread hazard is stress, with around a fifth of the workforce expressing concern stress could cause them harm.
- The next most prevalent hazards causing concern were lifting or carrying heavy loads, slipping or tripping, and dust or fume exposure, each representing around an estimated 9% of the working population.
- Over half the workforce has no, or slight, health and safety concerns.
- Respondents were asked whether various categories of health and safety risk had increased, reduced or stayed the same over the past year. In most cases they believed the risks stayed the same. Perceived reductions in risk were generally more common than increases. This was particularly marked for the risk of falling from height, where reduced risk responses outnumbered increased risk responses by around 20 percentage points.
- A clear balance in favour of reduced risk was also seen for dust and fume exposure, skin contact with chemicals, and slipping or tripping. The only risk category showing a clear balance in favour of increased risk was stress (by around 4%).
- The report also summarises top-level findings on health and safety representation, occupational health provision and self-reported work-related injury and illness rates.