The consequences of work-related injury and illness are far-reaching, with implications for workers and their families, employers and the government. The annual cost to Britain of workplace injury and work-related illness is around £16 billion. This takes into consideration both the human cost, such as the effect on workers’ quality of life and that of their families, as well as the financial costs relating to loss of production and the cost of healthcare.
Today (28th April) is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, a global awareness campaign that promotes the importance of healthy and safe working practices. The International Labour Organization (ILO) who lead the campaign report that more than 2.78 million people die every year as a result of accidents in the workplace or work-related diseases. In addition, there are also around 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries.
According to the latest annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were a total of 111 workplace fatalities and an estimated 693,000 non-fatal injuries in Britain throughout 2019/20. There were also 638,000 new cases of work-related ill health reported, with more than half of these attributed to work-related stress, depression and anxiety, and a quarter to musculoskeletal disorders. In total, around 38.8 million working days were lost to work-related illness and injury.
Of course, some jobs and working environments have occupational hazards associated with them that can put employees at greater risk of injury. The agriculture, forestry, fishing and construction sectors ranked the highest for number of workplace injuries last year; this is not surprising due to the nature of the work including intense manual labour, the use of machinery and working at height. The incidents that made up just under half of all workplace accidents were slips, trips and falls, and injuries sustained through lifting and handling heavy objects. These types of injuries can occur within any environment and whilst it is the employer’s duty to negate these risks by removing potential hazards and providing appropriate training, it is also the employee’s responsibility to be aware of and prevent risks too.
The continuing rise of alcohol consumption and drug use throughout the UK is having a worrying effect on workplaces. Research by UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) found that 40% of work-related accidents were linked to substance abuse. The use of substances such as alcohol, opiates and stimulants very often result in impaired judgement and behavioural changes, which can increase the risk of injuries and accidents, reduce productivity and cause disputes between co-workers. Substance abusers are also more likely to take time off sick, resulting in millions of lost days’ work at a significant cost to the employer.
Around 3 million employees go into work under the influence of drugs or alcohol each year. 83% of employees who have attended work with a hangover admit that it makes a difference to the way they work, and nearly one in four admit that being hungover caused them to make a mistake at work. Despite hangovers seeming somewhat insignificant and harmless to anyone other than the sufferer, even a small mistake made due to a moment of lapsed concentration could prove devastating.
With a duty of care towards their employees’ safety at work, and to ensure that employees are meeting their contractual obligations, more employers than ever are opting to undertake workplace testing to detect drug and alcohol abuse amongst their staff. This enables them to take the appropriate action to address any safety or performance issues arising from substance abuse.
Everyone has their part to play in creating safe and healthy working environments. It is in the interests of both employers and employees to tackle issues that may present a risk, and to work together to prevent potentially serious and costly incidents.
For information on AlphaBiolabs’ comprehensive range of workplace testing services, including drug testing and alcohol testing, please call our Workplace Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org