Hundreds of thousands of UK workers every year are injured, killed or fall ill as a result of working practices, statistics show.
While Amazon’s workplace accident record is horrific, statistics suggest that too many people are suffering from injury and illness, including mental illness, as a result of workplace practices across the UK.
In less than two months, the Health and Safety Executive levied 36 different fines related to dangerous or unsafe work environments — of which 26 had already led to serious injury, including several fatalities in separate incidents dating back several years.
According to inspectors, many of these accidents could be “easily” prevented.
HSE figures for the 2018-19 year report, across Great Britain as a whole,1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, 147 workers killed on the job and an estimated 28.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.
In addition, 581,000 working people sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey, and 69,208 injuries to employees were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) system.
The HSE also notes 2,526 mesothelioma deaths caused by past exposure to asbestos, based on figures from 2017, and an estimated overall financial cost attributed to injuries and ill health caused by current working conditions of £15 billion a year.
HSE notes that the true figures, however, are believed to be higher, with many work-related injuries and illnesses going unreported.
“Current levels of overall employer reporting of RIDDOR-defined non-fatal injuries to employees is estimated at around a half, and the reporting of injuries to the self-employed a much lower proportion,” according to its website.
And although figures suggest that physical injuries in UK workplaces may be reducing over time, the HSE says that mental health issues, such as self-reported stress, depression or anxiety, could be on the rise. In 2018-19, 602,000 employees were reported in the Labour Force Survey as having to take time off as a result of stress, depression or anxiety.
An investigation by union GMB has revealed that at least 600 serious physical injuries or “near misses” have occurred at Amazon UK warehouses alone in the last three years. The figures are based on Freedom of Information requests to local authorities.
“A worker at a London warehouse was knocked unconscious and stopped breathing following a head injury,” according to a union statement. “A worker in Manchester suffered head injuries after a number of boxes fell on them, they were later diagnosed with an inter vertebral disc prolapse.”
Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said it was time for a parliamentary enquiry into Amazon’s practices in particular.
“Amazon is spending millions on PR campaigns trying to persuade people its warehouses are great places to work,” he said.
Amazon is an extremely successful global business by standard measures, turning over a cool $280 billion in 2019 alone – yet has regularly come under fire for the pressure it puts on staff to achieve its goals.
Fleur Doidge is a freelance journalist for Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
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