Injuries and ill-health in the UK construction industry are now costing upwards of £16.2 billion per year, an analysis of data has revealed.
According to Construction News, the total cost of construction-related injuries rose by 34% in 2020, with injured employees bearing a greater amount of that cost than businesses and government combined.
About 20% (£3.16 billion) of the £16.2 billion total was incurred by employers and 22% (£3.5 billion) by the government. Yet the brunt of these costs (59%, or £9.56 billion) fell upon injured and ill individuals themselves.
The data also suggests that many people are going into work when sick or injured.
The findings, collated by London plant-hire firm Herts Tool Co, were based on construction statistics from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports.
In 2017/18, there were 2.1 million working days lost through work-related injury or illness, but this had decreased by 12% by 2019/20. This is despite a 5% increase in non-fatal onsite injuries reported during the same period.
Construction-site injuries are growing in number, but prohibition and improvement notices are becoming less common. When compared with 2017/18, 61% fewer prohibition notices were issued in 2020/21, and improvement notices were down 54% over the same timeframe. In addition, there were 63 per cent fewer prosecutions.
Herts Tool Co suggests that these figures give those who suffer accidents little hope of achieving justice. The company's director, Stefano Lobban, also said that workers are having to battle through illness or injury to avoid losing pay.
He warned that continuing to work through illness or injury can have severe, long-term consequences for physical and mental health. Physical injuries might be aggravated by carrying on with regular duties, especially if manual labour is required, causing further absences in the future.
Lobban added: “Although there will always be accidents in the construction industry, we can never stop trying to reduce them. These latest findings show just how far we have to go, with the cost of workplace injuries rising relentlessly, despite the UK having some of the most thorough health and safety regulations anywhere.
“Training is key to protecting workers, whether it’s highlighting dangers or teaching workers to make their own risk assessments on site. Then there’s ensuring workers have all the PPE [personal protective equipment] they need, such as helmets, safety goggles and slip-resistant footwear. Workers should also be encouraged to be honest about their health and not risk their future wellbeing by working on through injury or illness.
“I hope these findings act as a wake-up call to the industry and we’ll see a reduction in incident numbers next year.”
Phil Beaumont, a health and safety consultant, added: “First and foremost, it's important for sites and companies to implement rules, procedures and policies that people can easily follow to stay safe at work. Minimising future accidents also depends upon keeping a record of incidents and continuously assessing what went right, what went wrong, what was irrelevant and what more could have been done previously.
“If a company reports an accident at work concerning one of its workers, depending on the severity of the accident and [its] cause, they should carry out a thorough risk assessment for the returning person. This ensures they’re capable of doing the tasks they’re assigned and won’t aggravate their recovery. This should also include manual handling and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health assessments.
“It's also worth looking at a buddy system, temporary assignments, reduced hours, or planning a stepped return to work for the injured party.”
Construction News April 2022