Imagine you are working at a supermarket, carrying a wooden sign to promote some products. You are walking along the aisle, when suddenly you slip on a wet floor and fall hard on your back. You feel a sharp pain in your spine and you can’t move your legs.
This is not a fictional scenario. This is what happened to M., a young marketing employee who shared his workplace horror story with Workable. He suffered a severe spinal injury that left him paralysed from the waist down. He had to undergo multiple surgeries and spend months in rehabilitation. He lost his job, his income, and his independence.
M.'s story is not an isolated case. Every year, millions of workers around the world are injured or killed by workplace accidents. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year, and another 374 million suffer from non-fatal injuries.
Workplace accidents are not only tragic, but also preventable. Most of them are caused by human error, negligence, or lack of safety measures. They can have devastating consequences for the workers, their families, their employers, and the society. That’s why it is important to raise awareness and take action to prevent them.
Key Health & Safety figures for the UK (2022/23)
To get the full story visit the spacebands article 'UK Health & Safety Statistics 2023' with an easy to digest downloadable infographic. Below is a snapchat of the key statistics for 2022/23.
1.8 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, of which
875,000 workers suffering work-related stress, depression or anxiety
473,000 workers suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder
2,268 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2021)
135 workers killed in work-related accidents
561,000 working people sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey
60,645 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR
35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
£20.7 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2021/22)
spacebands accident cost calculator
To try and understand the impact of these costs to workplaces, we created a free to use workplace accident cost calculator, which allows you to look into the number of fatal and non-fatal injuries for a range of accidents at work.
The calculator also breaks down each accident type into job information, personal demographics and more information on the injury type.
The calculator will tell you the median days off for each type of incident.
The costs of workplace accidents for individuals
The impact of workplace accidents on physical and mental health
Workplace accidents can have serious and lasting effects on the physical and mental health of workers, as well as their quality of life and income. Here are some ways how:
Physical health: Workplace accidents can cause various types of injuries and illnesses, ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severe fractures and amputations. Some common examples are slips, trips and falls, musculoskeletal disorders, stress, and occupational diseases.
These can affect the workers’ ability to perform their tasks, as well as their daily activities and hobbies. Some injuries and illnesses may require medical treatment, surgery, or rehabilitation, which can be costly and time-consuming. Some may also result in permanent disability or reduced life expectancy.
Mental health: Workplace accidents can also affect the workers’ psychological well-being, as they may experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health conditions.
These can affect the workers’ mood, motivation, concentration, and self-esteem. They may also impair their social and interpersonal relationships, as they may feel isolated, stigmatized, or unsupported by their family, friends, or colleagues.
Some mental health conditions may require counselling, medication, or therapy, which can also be costly and time-consuming.
Quality of life: Workplace accidents can affect the workers’ overall satisfaction and happiness with their life, as they may face various challenges and difficulties in coping with their physical and mental health issues.
They may also experience changes in their lifestyle, such as reduced mobility, independence, or leisure activities.
They may also face barriers in accessing education, training, or other opportunities for personal and professional development.
Income: Workplace accidents can affect the workers’ income, as they may lose their job, their earning potential, or their career prospects.
They may also incur expenses for medical care, legal fees, or other costs related to their injury or illness.
They may also face difficulties in finding or keeping a new job, especially if they have a disability or a mental health condition.
They may also receive less or no compensation, depending on the nature and severity of their injury or illness, and the availability and adequacy of the workers’ compensation system.
Workplace accidents can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on the workers’ physical and mental health, quality of life, and income. That’s why it is important to prevent them by improving the health and safety culture, training, and policies in the workplace.
Common types of workplace injuries and illnesses
Slips, trips and falls: These are the most common type of workplace accidents, accounting for 30% of all non-fatal injuries in the UK in 2021/22. They can be caused by wet or slippery floors, uneven surfaces, loose cables, poor lighting, or cluttered work areas.
Musculoskeletal disorders: These are injuries or illnesses that affect the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments, such as back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or arthritis. They can be caused by lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, awkward postures, vibration, or cold temperatures. They can affect the workers’ mobility, flexibility, strength, or endurance. They accounted for 20% of all work-related ill health cases in the UK in 2022/23.
Stress, depression or anxiety: These are mental health conditions that can affect the workers’ emotional, cognitive, or behavioural well-being. They can be caused by excessive workload, tight deadlines, lack of control, role conflict, poor communication, harassment, or violence. They can affect the workers’ mood, motivation, concentration, or self-esteem. They can also impair their social and interpersonal relationships. They accounted for 49% of all work-related ill health cases in the UK in 2022/23.
Occupational diseases: These are diseases that are caused or aggravated by exposure to hazardous substances or environments at work, such as chemicals, dust, noise, radiation, or biological agents. Some examples are occupational asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, silicosis, asbestosis, mesothelioma, skin cancer, or hearing loss. They can affect the workers’ respiratory, cardiovascular, dermatological, or auditory systems. They can also result in disability or death. They accounted for an estimated 12,000 deaths per year in the UK, linked to past exposures at work.
Statistics on workplace injuries
Here are some statistics on the number and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses in the UK and globally, as well as the average costs for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation:
The average costs for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and compensation vary depending on the type and severity of the injury or illness, the country and the system of health and social security. For example, in the UK, the average cost per case of work-related injury in 2018/19 was £8,500, which includes £4,700 for individuals, £2,100 for employers, and £1,700 for the government. In the US, the average cost per case of occupational injury or illness in 2017 was US$41,000, which includes US$32,000 for medical care and US$9,000 for indemnity benefits.
Human cost of workplace accidents
Workplace accidents can have devastating human costs, such as pain, suffering, reduced life expectancy, and loss of life. These costs are not only monetary, but also emotional, psychological, and social. They affect not only the workers, but also their families, friends, and communities. Here are some ways how:
Pain: Workplace accidents can cause physical pain, which can range from mild to severe, acute to chronic, and localized to widespread. Pain can affect the workers’ ability to function, sleep, or enjoy life. Pain can also cause emotional distress, such as anger, frustration, or sadness. Pain can also affect the workers’ relationships, as they may feel isolated, misunderstood, or unsupported by others.
Suffering: Workplace accidents can cause suffering, which can be defined as the negative emotional and cognitive response to pain or adversity. Suffering can affect the workers’ mental health, such as causing anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other psychological disorders. Suffering can also affect the workers’ sense of identity, purpose, or meaning in life. Suffering can also affect the workers’ spirituality, such as causing doubt, guilt, or loss of faith.
Reduced life expectancy: Workplace accidents can reduce the workers’ life expectancy, which is the average number of years that a person can expect to live. Reduced life expectancy can be caused by fatal or non-fatal injuries or illnesses, such as cancers, respiratory diseases, or cardiovascular diseases. Reduced life expectancy can affect the workers’ personal and professional goals, plans, or dreams. Reduced life expectancy can also affect the workers’ family, such as causing grief, bereavement, or financial hardship.
Loss of life: Workplace accidents can cause loss of life, which is the ultimate human cost. Loss of life can be caused by fatal injuries, such as falls from height, being struck by a moving vehicle, or being struck by a moving object. Loss of life can affect the workers’ dignity, rights, or legacy. Loss of life can also affect the workers’ family, friends, and society, such as causing trauma, mourning, or injustice.
These costs are not only monetary, but also emotional, psychological, and social. They affect not only the workers, but also their families, friends, and communities.
The costs of workplace accidents for employers
Productivity, profitability, and reputation
Workplace accidents can affect the productivity, profitability, and reputation of businesses, as well as their legal and moral obligations, in the following ways:
Productivity: Workplace accidents can disrupt the normal workflow and operations of a business, as they may cause work interruptions, cancellations, or delays.
They may also reduce the availability, efficiency, or performance of the workers, especially the injured ones or their colleagues who may be affected by the incident.
They may also require the business to invest time and resources in investigating the cause, reporting the incident, and implementing corrective actions.
Profitability: Workplace accidents can reduce the income and increase the expenses of a business, as they may result in losing customers, contracts, or sales opportunities.
They may also incur costs for medical treatment, rehabilitation, compensation, insurance premiums, legal fees, fines, repairs, or replacements. They may also affect the tax deductions or subsidies that the business may be eligible for.
Reputation: Workplace accidents can damage the image and credibility of a business, as they may indicate a lack of health and safety standards, management, or culture.
They may also attract negative publicity, media attention, or public scrutiny, which may affect the trust, confidence, or loyalty of the customers, suppliers, investors, or partners. They may also affect the recruitment, retention, or motivation of the employees, who may perceive the workplace as unsafe, unhealthy, or unsupportive.
Legal and moral obligations: Workplace accidents can expose the business to legal and moral liabilities, as they may violate the health and safety laws, regulations, or codes of practice that apply to the industry, sector, or region.
They may also breach the duty of care, contract, or trust that the business owes to the workers, customers, or society. They may also trigger legal actions, claims, or complaints from the injured workers, their families, or other parties, who may seek justice, compensation, or accountability.
Direct and indirect costs of workplace accidents
Lost productivity: These are the costs of reduced output, efficiency, or performance of the workers, especially the injured ones or their colleagues who may be affected by the incident. The lost productivity can vary depending on the nature and the duration of the work interruption, the availability and the quality of the replacement workers, and the impact on the customers and the suppliers.
Increased training and recruitment costs: These are the costs of hiring, training, or retraining new or existing workers to fill the gap left by the injured ones or to prevent future accidents. The increased training and recruitment costs can vary depending on the skills and the experience required, the availability and the retention of the workers, and the effectiveness of the training programs.
Damage to reputation: These are the costs of losing the trust, confidence, or loyalty of the customers, suppliers, investors, or partners due to the negative publicity, media attention, or public scrutiny that the accident may generate. The damage to reputation can vary depending on the severity and the frequency of the accidents, the response and the communication of the employer, and the expectations and the perceptions of the stakeholders.
Average costs of workplace accidents for employers
Here are some statistics on the average costs for employers per accident and per industry in the UK and globally, as well as the impact on the economy and the labour market:
In this blog post, we have explored the economic and social costs of workplace accidents for individuals, employers, and society.
Workplace accidents can affect the physical and mental health, quality of life, and income of workers, as well as the productivity, profitability, and reputation of businesses, and the public services, environment, and social welfare of communities.
Workplace accidents are not only tragic, but also preventable. Most of them are caused by human error, negligence, or lack of safety measures. They can have devastating consequences for the workers, their employers, and the society. That’s why it is important to raise awareness and take action to prevent them. Some of the recommendations and suggestions for improving health and safety at work are:
For individuals: Be aware of the potential hazards and risks in your workplace, and follow the health and safety rules and procedures. Report any unsafe or unhealthy conditions or incidents to your supervisor or manager. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing. Seek medical attention and compensation if you are injured or ill. Seek counselling or support if you are stressed or depressed.
For employers: Provide a safe and healthy work environment for your employees, and comply with the health and safety laws and regulations. Conduct regular risk assessments and inspections, and implement preventive and corrective measures. Provide adequate training and information on health and safety to your employees. Provide medical care and compensation to your injured or ill employees. Provide counselling or support to your stressed or depressed employees.
For society: Support the government and the regulators, such as the HSE, in enforcing health and safety laws, raising awareness, and providing guidance and support. Support the workers and their families who are affected by workplace accidents, and advocate for their rights and interests. Support the research and innovation on health and safety, and promote the best practices and standards.
Workplace accidents are a serious and urgent issue that affects everyone. By working together, we can reduce the costs and save the lives of millions of workers around the world.
Head of Marketing
Dan enjoys reading, listening to and playing music, gaming and visiting new places.
spacebands is a multi-sensor wearable that monitors external, environmental hazards, anticipates potential accidents, and gives real-time data on stress in hazardous environments.