We’ve analysed the latest data provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to uncover some of the UK’s most dangerous regions to work in.
Our report is based on workplace injuries over 12 months during 2019/20, with data obtained from HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (RIDDOR) regulations. We have chosen to look only at non-fatal injuries as, fortunately, fatal injuries at work are relatively rare these days, with 111 deaths over the course of 2019/20 compared with 65,427 non-fatal injuries.
Reported non-fatal injury rates have generally been falling over the past few years – from a peak of 3,980 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in 2000/01 to 2,160 last year – but injuries still affected an estimated 693,000 people (Source: Labour Force Survey 2019/20). The annual cost of this is £5.6 billion, and many injuries have long-term ill-effects on the victims.
Slips, trips or falls account for most of these injuries, 29% of the total, with injuries caused by handling, lifting or carrying being the second most common at 19%.
So where in Great Britain do most of these injuries occur? We dug into the data to find out where the UK’s top ten most dangerous places are, based on non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees.
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 898
With 898 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees, North Warwickshire is (unfortunately) the most dangerous local authority area to work in. In fact, North Warwickshire has topped the list most years since 2014, when the region had an eye-watering 1,393 injuries per 100,000 – but there is a glimmer of hope as the current rate is the second lowest recorded since then. So although it’s still at the top of the list for now, North Warwickshire is also one of the most improved places.
The top employment industries in North Warwickshire are manufacturing (19.14%), transportation and storage (19.10%) and wholesale and retail (19.01%) (source: northwarks.gov.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 777
Although London as a whole has one of the lowest rates of worker injuries in the UK, the small borough of Sutton has the second largest rate of all local authorities. Recording 777 injuries per 100,000 employees, Sutton has had its third worst year in the last six, with more than double the 2015/16 figure of 345 non-fatal injuries.
This could be down to the fact that the construction industry accounts for 20% of the businesses in Sutton, compared with the London average of just 10.8% (source: data.sutton.gov.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 613
It’s not good news for the county of Staffordshire as, not only does it feature in our list, but it does so twice, starting with South Staffordshire where 613 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees were reported.
Although there are no major towns or cities within the district it does border with Shropshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands, making it commutable for Telford, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
The manufacturing industry in South Staffordshire is the primary employment sector, making up 16.7% of all jobs in the district compared with 11.7% for the West Midlands (one of the safest places to work by injury rates) and 8% for Great Britain as a whole. (source: nomisweb.co.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 508
The second Staffordshire region to feature in this list is the Staffordshire Moorlands. Sandwiched between Stoke-on-Trent and the Peak District National Park, this district’s main industries are agriculture, fashion and tourism (source: Wikipedia.org) and it is home to the world-famous Alton Towers Theme Park.
Staffordshire Moorlands is also one of the few places on this list that have been experiencing more workplace injuries over time, with 508 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees being the worst year so far. The lowest was 337 back in 2016/17.
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 497
Daventry is a mostly rural district, once known around the world for its radio transmitting station, which the BBC used to transmit radio across the British Empire in the 1930s. Nowadays, the largest industries are storage and transport (14.9% of total) and manufacturing (13.8%) (source: daventrydc.gov.uk).
These 497 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees places Daventry in the middle of our list. This year was also roughly in the middle when looking at Daventry’s best and worst years, from 687 in 2014/15 to 441 in 2018/19.
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 487
Bolsover is, of course, in the East Midlands, which was one of the most accident-prone regions of the UK in 2019/20, second only to Wales. So it’s little surprise that several places in our list are located in the East Midlands region.
The 487 recorded non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees is only slightly above the average for Bolsover over the last six years, although unfortunately, it is a 33% increase on the previous year’s accident rate.
The wholesale and retail trade sector provides many of the jobs in Bolsover, with 17.2% of the total (Great Britain average is 15%). Manufacturing is the second biggest employer with 13.8% of jobs, compared to the average for Britain of 8% (source: nomisweb.co.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 475
Over 50% of jobs in South Holland are directly linked to agriculture and food, with food manufacturing being 13 times more significant than the national average as an employer (source: sholland.gov.uk). Agriculture and manufacturing are two of the industries where most injuries occur, according to the Labour Force Survey’s latest figures, so it’s hardly surprising that the South Holland district of Lincolnshire is seventh on our list of most dangerous places to work.
It’s worth noting, however, that the rate of non-fatal injuries for South Holland is significantly better than the previous year of 560 per 100,000 employees, so it has at least been improving. In fact, 475 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 is the second lowest figure recorded in the last six years so, if this trend continues, maybe South Holland will not appear in next year’s list.
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 468
Broadland is another area that has seen significant improvements in its injury rate over the last six years, but it still features eighth on our list. The worst year for Broadland was in 2014/15, when 947 non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees were recorded, which would have made it the second most dangerous place to work that year.
The reason for this steady improvement? Unknown, unfortunately. However, it could be a change in the employment profile over the years. Both the manufacturing and the wholesale and retail sectors have declined by around 2% in the last five years, whereas jobs in real estate, IT and administrative roles have been on the increase (source: nomisweb.co.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 466
The small Knowsley district of Merseyside does feature ninth on our list, but non-fatal injury rates have improved every year since 2014/15, from 674 down to 466 per 100,000 employees.
As with many districts in the north west, jobs in manufacturing make up significant parts of the labour market with 17.6% of all of the jobs in Knowsley in 2019, more than double the national average (source: nomisweb.co.uk). But Knowsley has also seen jobs in the superport sector grow by 50% in the last five years, being in an excellent strategic position for logistics (Source: knowsley.gov.uk).
Non-fatal injuries per 100,000 employees: 465
The final place on our top ten list is the Leicestershire region of Blaby. Some of the traditionally dangerous job types, such as manufacturing and construction, are no longer predominant in Blaby. Instead, many jobs are in professional, scientific and technical activities (21%) or public administration (11.3%) – figures that are both significantly above the national average rate (source: nomisweb.co.uk).
Five years ago, however, it was a different story. The proportion of jobs in manufacturing and construction was above the national average, so it seems that a shift in the employment profile has ensured that Blaby doesn’t make it higher up our top ten list. With fewer jobs in manufacturing or construction forecast, don’t be surprised if Blaby is no longer in the top ten next year.
It’s worth noting that there are many reasons for fluctuations in ill health or injury at work and it’s unlikely to be caused by where people live. Factors such as the type of work you do, how long you have been doing it for and the industry you work in are all significant factors to how safe a job is. However, when it comes to regional differences then it is most likely a case of the differences between employment profiles of these locations, with fewer low-risk jobs being available than in places with fewer reported injuries.
Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.