When someone uses the word ‘cost,’ you immediately think about monetary value. Cost is generally directly linked to financial worth of something, and so it is often used in those contexts. However, when it comes to the cost of illness and injuries resulting from accidents or incidents in the workplace, the word takes on a far deeper and more significant meaning.
As well as the financial losses faced by both employers and employees, there is also the emotional cost in terms of suffering and grief. This comes alongside the loss of confidence, safety reviews, investigations, and other time consuming but wholly necessary safety measures.
There is, of course, a substantial financial impact of injuries at work, and it is a good place to start when assessing cost. The monetary costs of injuries can be separated between three distinct groups: the individual, the employer and the government.
The individual suffers not just a loss of income but also the expense of paying for rehabilitation, as well as administrative costs.
HSE statistics show that every year, over a million workers are injured or made ill by their work in the UK. In 2018/19 in the UK, the figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that there was a gross £9.6 billion loss of earnings for individual workers due to injuries or workplace induced ill health. In fact, individual workers lose out considerably more than their employers do or the government.
Employers are responsible for sick pay and insurance payments, as well as production disturbance and administration costs. They may also be liable to pay legal fees in the event the matter is taken to an adjudication level. According to the HSE, in 2019/19 the cost to employers was £3.2 billion. As always these are only figures representing the incidents and injuries that were serious enough to be reported – with actual numbers being higher. They also only take into consideration new injuries and illnesses, as opposed to longstanding ones carrying over from the years before.
Costs faced by the state include medical bills and national insurance pay-outs in the short term and in the long term the provision of benefits (if a person is unable to work subsequent to an accident). It is estimated that in 2018/19, the cost of self-reported workplace injuries/illnesses cost the government £3.5 billion.
The real impact of workplace injuries
As you can see, these are all huge and very substantial numbers that have a massive impact on the economy of the country. However, as mentioned, the numbers only reveal a small, quantifiable part of the story. Very often the real cost of workplace injuries can’t be measured or assessed with statistics. The emotional and physical cost of workplace injuries has long-lasting and wide-ranging implications for those involved, and their families. The financial cost of rehabilitation is dwarfed by the emotional and physical effort it requires. The emotional impact of a workplace injury can deeply affect an individual, destroying confidence and affecting the ability to work. Emotional effects can also spread to family members and friends, as well as colleagues.
In many cases, individual and family lives are ruined by quick, simple and preventable accidents in the workplace. These unquantifiable effects are very often the real cost of workplace injury.