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When workers are absent it can be more difficult to work at the usual capacity and this may result in lost orders, customer dissatisfaction and a damaged reputation.

On top of productivity issues, additional costs can build up in the form of:

  • statutory/occupational sick pay (SSP/OSP), plus National Insurance;
  • work reorganisation;
  • temporary/permanent replacement staff;
  • administration; and
  • if applicable:
  • employers’ liability insurance premiums;
  • corporate private health insurance premiums; and/or
  • internal/legal expenses for HSE/LA investigations/prosecutions and the payment of related fines.
Some employers may believe that there’s little they can do to stop their employees getting ill, but work is a significant part of people’s lives and so the reason for their absence is often related to it. Similarly, while accidents do happen, a robust health and safety management system should tackle the risks that can cause injuries as much as is reasonably practicable.
Identify the key functions in your business and work out the damage that interruption could do.

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Type of illness
Est. total days lost
Avg. days lost per case
Est. prevalence
Stress, depression or anxiety 15.4m 25.8 595,000
Upper limb or neck MSD 2.6m 13.2 197,000
Back-related MSD 2.2m 11.9 186,000
Lower limb MSD 1.7m 20.1 86,000
Breathing or lung problems 645,000 14.5 44,000

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Nature of injury
Est. total days lost
Avg. days lost per case
Est. prevalence
Fracture and broken bones 1.7m 21.6 77,000
Sprains and strains 1m 6.8 147,000
Dislocation of joints 396,000 17.2 23,000
Superficial 279,000 2.2 127,000
Lacerations and open wounds 189,000 2.3 82,000
Burns and scalds
43,700 1.9 23,000
Other 1.1m 9.3 115,000

Besides physical health and safety hazards, it’s vital that the issues that may cause or exacerbate mental health problems like stress, depression and anxiety – which are by far the most prevalent reason for sickness absence1 – are considered, including workloads, violence, bullying and harassment, change management and support.

In addition to minding specific risks that can lead to personnel illness and injury:

  • keep all health and safety risk assessments up-to-date, making sure to re-do them when there are changes in the workplace as well as on a regular basis;
  • don’t delay reviews of, or updates to, your health and safety policy;
  • maintain, and regularly review, thorough accident records and investigation and reporting procedures;
  • keep detailed absence records and assess them periodically;
  • develop and implement a 'return to work' policy and procedures; and
  • consider health surveillance for workers who might be more vulnerable to illness or injury.
Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.
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