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Annual work-related ill-health, injury and enforcement statistics for 2020/21 published

On 16 December 2021, the HSE published statistics covering work-related ill health, non-fatal workplace injuries and enforcement action taken by the regulator, in the 2020/21 period.

The statistics reveal that 1.7 million workers were suffering from a work-related illness (new or long standing) in 2020/21. Of these, 800,000 were attributable to stress, depression or anxiety, and 28% were musculoskeletal disorders (500,000 workers).


Two new estimates have been developed to measure the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These reveal:

  • 93,000 workers self-reported catching COVID-19 at work; 52,000 of these worked in the human health and social work sector.

  • 645,000 workers reported that their work-related illness was caused or made worse by the coronavirus pandemic; 70% of these were cases of stress, depression or anxiety.

The HSE notes that the pandemic has affected certain data collection and impacted on assessment of trends, therefore there is no new data on working days lost and the associated economic cost for 2021.

It is not known whether some of the people reporting a coronavirus-related ill health condition would have developed and reported an ill health condition if pre-pandemic working practices had continued. Therefore, it is not possible to assess the scale of work-related ill health independent of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, says the regulator.


Other figures reveal:

  • 0.4 million workers sustaining a non-fatal injury in 2020/21.

  • 142 workers killed at work in 2020/21.

  • 441,000 workers sustaining a non-fatal injury according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey in 2020/21.

  • 51,211 employee non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR in 2020/21.

  • 12,000 lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures at work.

  • 2,369 mesothelioma deaths in 2019, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos.

  • 17,000 estimated new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year on average over the last three years according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey.

  • 13,000 deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposure at work, primarily to chemicals or dust.

  • 470,000 workers suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (new or longstanding) in 2020/21.

  • 162,000 workers suffering from a new case of work-related musculoskeletal disorder in 2020/21.

By industry

Industries with ill health rates statistically significantly higher than the rate for all industries were: human health and social work, public administration and defence and education.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, accommodation and food service activities and wholesale and retail trade (including motor vehicle repair) had statistically significantly higher injury rates than for all industries.

Further statistics by industry are available as follows:


The restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the number of prosecutions and notices issued, says the HSE.

This year has also seen a substantial fall in the number of cases prosecuted. The number of notices issued by HSE bodies showed a substantial decrease compared to the previous year.

Key statistics are:

  • 185 cases prosecuted, or referred to COPFS for prosecution in Scotland, by HSE where a conviction was achieved in 2020/21.

  • 2,929 Notices issued by HSE in 2020/21.

  • £26.9 million in fines resulting from prosecutions taken, or referred to COPFS for prosecution in Scotland, by HSE where a conviction was achieved in 2020/21.


HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, commented: “These annual statistics are important to give us a clear picture of the health and safety risks faced by workers in the Great Britain and help to inform the measures HSE, employers, policy-makers and workers themselves need to take to ensure everyone can go home from work safe and well.

“The 12-month period in question coincides with the first national lockdown and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. There have been significant impacts on the labour market, which is reflected in our reporting.

“We worked differently too in responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, advising across Government, helping to shape guidance for businesses and implementing our Covid Spot Check programme to ensure workplaces were kept as safe as possible.

“The latest figures on work-related stress reinforce our previous concerns around the scale of this issue in workplaces. Just last month we announced our new Working Minds campaign, in partnership with a number of key organisations, to help employers make recognising the signs of work-related stress routine.

“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.”

The Summary Statistics document is available in full here.

HSE December 2021

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