Sick workers take 13 million days off a year year

One in every 11 people suffers from ill-health caused, or exacerbated by, their working conditions and environment, employers were warned yesterday at the launch of the biggest health in the workplace initiative to date.

Each year at least 750,000 workers take 13 million days off because of work-related illness at a total cost to the taxpayer of around pounds 4-5bn.

This includes compensation claims, loss of business due to bad publicity, and the need to retrain or recruit new staff, the Health and Safety Executive said.

Frank Davies, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, acknowledged that its campaign could lead to more litigation by workers against their employers but that this could be "a good thing", he said. "Workers should draw matters to the attention of employers because everyone should be involved in the promotion of good health."

Sir John Harvey Jones, the former ICI chairman and now celebrity management guru, who features in the HSE campaign video, said it was a "crime" that any worker should suffer work-related illness.

A 1990 Labour Force Survey in England and Wales found that musco-skeletal disorders - strains, sprains, back problems - were the most frequently reported problem with 600,000 cases; this was followed by stress/depression (100,000); deafness/other ear conditions (100,000); lower respiratory tract diseases (80,000 - one quarter of which were asthma); and skin disease (55,000 cases).

One of the problems highlighted at the press launch in London yesterday, was the risk of asthma among bakery workers exposed daily to flour dust.

The HSE's pounds 1.5m campaign, "Good Health is Good Business", will focus on small and medium-sized enterprises with up to 200 employers, but will also involve GPs and other health professionals who can influence employers. A television advertising campaign begins tomorrow highlighting the dangers of vibration, dust, noise, repetitive movements, and handling of chemicals.

David Eves, deputy director general of the HSE, said it would not "hesitate in taking action", against employers who put their workforce at risk.

There had been 260 prosecutions under the 1988 Coshh (Control of substances hazardous to health) regulations, Mr Eves said, and the first custodial sentence had recently been imposed on the director of a company which had recklessly ignored safety advice while dismantling a building containing asbestos.

Ann Holgarth, a former nurse who was forced to give up work in 1990 because of a severe back injury, urged better education for employers and employees on how to avoid musco-skeletal problems. Ms Holgarth fell on the ward but continued working. "Apart from my ill health, I suffered job bereavement - nursing was my profession and something that I had always wanted to do and that was taken away from me..."

t For a free "Good Health is Good Business" campaign pack contact 0345 181819.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee