The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Work related sickness absence is credited with costing the UK
economy around 30 million working days every year, at a financial
cost of around £1.5 billion per year, according to Dame Carol
Black's 2008 report "Working for a Healthier Tomorrow". HSE
identified a lack of data quantifying the extent of ill-health in
the waste and recycling industry. Therefore HSE commissioned HSL to
undertake a detailed survey of sickness absence of the UK waste and
What We Did
HSL engaged with the industry to provide sickness absence data.
At the core of the work was a detailed statistical analysis of data
on worker sickness absence provided by the participants for the
This data was used to calculate a range of sickness absence
statistics for different categories, for example, the average
number of absences and days absent per employee per year, the
average length of absence, and the percentage of absences
attributable to specific categories of illness.
Statistical techniques were then used to identify major trends
in the data. Results were assessed for significance taking into
account limitations of the data.
For the local authorities participating, analysis of sickness
absence data found the average number of days absent per employee
per year to be 12.8 days, compared to 7.0 days in the private
companies. Rates of sickness absence attributable to
musculo-skeletal disorders were particularly high across all work
activities. These results were broadly consistent with more general
surveys from Local Government Employers and Engineering Employers'
However, the HSL survey identified a number of inconsistencies
in how sickness absence is recorded across the waste industry and
because of this was not able to provide an accurate breakdown of
the profile of ill-health, i.e. the specific reasons for
sickness absences, across specific work activities.
Therefore, one of the key recommendations stemming from the work
was for the industry-wide adoption of a standard for recording
sickness absence. In response to this, the Waste Industry Safety
and Health (WISH) Forum, with the involvement of HSE and
HSL, agreed an industry-wide uptake of a standard set of metrics
for recording sickness absence.
The implementation of these new metrics will provide the
industry and HSE with accurate intelligence on specific job
activities in the waste industry where the risks of work-related
ill-health are highest, allowing the effective targeting of effort
and resource to effectively address the problem.
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