It is estimated that around 137.3 million working days were lost to sickness absence or injury in the UK in 2016, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is actually equivalent to around 4.3 days per worker each year, making it the lowest recorded average absence level since the ONS series began 24 years ago.

Coughs and colds were amongst the most common reasons for absence in 2016, accounting for almost a quarter of the total number of workdays lost.

Mental health issues, including stress, depression and anxiety, were the third most common cited reason for absence, which equalled just under 16 million workdays lost.

Certain groups, including women, older workers, smokers, public-health-sector workers and those with long-term health conditions recorded the highest rates of sickness absence in 2016.

However, many of these groups, including older workers and those in the public sector, were also among those showing the biggest reduction in absence rates over the past two decades according to the figures from the ONS.
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A recent study has suggested that the health of pilots and aircrews could be negatively affected by extended exposure to contaminated air within aircraft.

Research carried out by the University of Stirling, which is believed to be the first of its kind, looked in depth at the health of pilots and crew who are suspected to have been exposed to contaminated air during their airborne careers.

The study concluded there is a clear link between being exposed to air supplies contaminated by engine oil and other aircraft fluids and a variety of health problems.

The researchers confirmed that over 200 aircrew had been exposed to various substances via aircrafts' contaminated air. It revealed a pattern of acute and chronic symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties and problems with vision.

Two different surveys were carried out to look at the various circumstances and symptoms of working in aircraft where the air is pressurised. The symptoms were then confirmed using medical diagnoses.

One test reviewed pilots' health, and demonstrated that 88% were aware of exposure to aircraft contaminated air. Almost 65% reported specific health problems, while 13% had either passed away or experienced chronic ill health.

The other test looked at specific incidents such as oil leaks. 80% of these involved fumes only and all of the events took place when the aircraft was being prepared for, or actually in-flight.

Two-thirds of the incidents involved further reports of fumes. Over 90% involved symptoms ranging from in-flight impairment to incapacitation. Over 70% included situations where symptoms affected more than one crew member and anywhere between 10 and 23 differing symptoms were reported in connection with 47% of events.

Over 80% of the incidents confirmed oil leakage from the engines during subsequent maintenance investigations.
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The cost per head of new cases of type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom is expected to be higher than any other large European country by 2020. This is according to research and analysis recently carried out by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

The same type of cost per head of new diabetes cases in 2020 is expected to reach almost 19 Euros in the United Kingdom, compared to the level of just over 10 Euros in Italy.

It is estimated that the total cost in economic terms of the condition in the high-income European countries included in the study, which are currently France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, is expected to be approximately 883 million Euros in 2020.

The authors of this analysis explained that the results in this study include indirect costs caused by lost productivity due to work absence, disability, early retirement and premature death, among incident diabetes cases directly linked and attributable to factors, such as bad diet and a lack of physical activity. The authors of the report also commented that "While our estimates are restricted to diabetes, they provide a fuller picture of the likely future costs that can be attributed to contemporary dietary and physical activity patterns."
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A company in Dorset has been prosecuted after a scaffold collapsed at an industrial unit.

Poole Magistrates heard how the company had been contracted to erect scaffolding at the industrial unit to provide edge protection for works to be carried out on the roof.

The scaffolding collapsed in September 2015 narrowly avoiding an office worker as they exited the building but resulting in serious damage to a number of parked cars.

The HSE concluded that the company had failed to ensure the scaffolding that had been provided was appropriately designed and set up to prevent possible collapse during use. The company also failed to ensure the scaffolding was suitably attached to the building to withstand foreseeable wind loads.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 19 (2) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 and was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,051.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Principal Inspector commented that "The company failed to ensure the scaffolding was properly secured to the building to avoid it putting workers and members of the public at risk of it collapsing in high winds. It is very lucky nobody was injured as result of this incident. All duty holders have the responsibility to ensure all scaffolding work is properly designed and installed by competent workers."
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This week the prime minister called for the House of Commons commission to ‘urgently’ look into whether the Great Bell (Big Ben) should be taken out of service for four years during the current renovation project.

An earlier announcement regarding this project had said that Big Ben was to have the Great Bell stopped during a major, multi-million pound restoration project to ensure the health and safety of workers on site.

The TUC’s health and safety expert, Hugh Robertson, welcomed the move, comparing the chimes of Big Ben to “putting your ear next to a police siren.”

He also commented that “We know August is silly season, but today’s headlines just don’t ring true. When all 14 tonnes of Big Ben bongs near you, you’ll know it. At nearly 120 decibels, it’s like putting your ear next to a police siren. Protecting workers’ hearing is far from ‘health and safety gone mad’. It’s just plain common sense.”

The Prime Minister, Theresa May said: “Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years and I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.”

The Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, who is a member of the commission responsible for the Palace of Westminster maintenance project, has contacted the director general of the Commons requesting a re-assessment of the decision to silence Big Ben.

He said: “It would not be possible for them to continue to be rung every 15 minutes as is currently the case, that would not be practical, but it may be perhaps practical and it may be financially viable to ring them more frequently than is currently being proposed.”

Some other commentators on this issue are suggesting that ear defenders and shorter work shifts may have been an alternative to protect the health and safety of workers and also ensure Big Ben’s bells still sounded.

Workers currently operating on the site have been using ear defenders for short periods while exposed to Big Ben’s noise. However long-term exposure of some four years to Big Ben’s 120dB chimes has meant that some people have questioned whether any form of PPE could protect against permanent damage to hearing for the workers. Others are saying such equipment is currently regularly used on construction and manufacturing sites, where noise levels are at a similar level to the legendary bells.

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A Company in Grantham has been fined £200,000 for a breach of health and safety regulations that resulted in an employee dying following a fall from a cherry picker.

The incident took place in February 2016.

In a case brought by the HSE the company appeared at Lincoln Magistrates' Court, where three offences were admitted.
  • Failure to provide and maintain a safe working system for employees, including repairs to a crane.
  • Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of health and safety risks to employees.
  • Failure to make arrangements for the effective control, monitoring and review of preventative and protective health and safety measures of employees engaged in maintenance tasks.

The company pleaded guilty to being in breach of Regulation 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulations 3(1) and 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The firm was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,622.05 and a £170 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing, the Inspector said: "Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working. This incident could have been prevented had the company provided appropriate supervision and suitable fall-arrest equipment for their workers to wear and use.”

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