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Executive Summary of HSE Work-Related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Statistics in Great Britain, 2022

Dive into the 2022 HSE Report's findings on work-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Great Britain. Highlighting that 15% of COPD cases, leading to 4,000 annual deaths, are due to workplace exposures, the report underscores the significant health risks in occupations like coal mining. With 30,000 yearly deaths linked to COPD and an evolving landscape due to COVID-19, the report emphasizes the ongoing public health challenge.

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Executive Summary: HSE Report on Work-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) statistics in Great Britain

This blog post summarises the key findings from the annual HSE report on work-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) statistics in Great Britain, 2022.

1. 15% of COPD cases are attributed to workplace exposures

According to several epidemiological reviews, approximately 15% of COPD cases are said to be linked to workplace exposures. This amounts to about 4,000 deaths per year in Britain the main culprit being occupational exposures to toxic dust, fumes, and vapours. (Refer to page 5 of the original document)

2. COPD primarily affects former coal miners

Former coal miners are particularly at risk of developing COPD due to their exposure to coal dust in their work environment. Acknowledging this, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) has been made accessible to this group of workers for a number of years. (Refer to page 4)

3. Approximately 30,000 deaths per year in Britain linked to COPD

Over the past decade, COPD has been recorded as the underlying cause of an average of 30,000 deaths per year. The main cause is attributed to smoking with workplace exposures also contributing significantly. (Refer to page 5)

4. Rough estimate of 1.5 million COPD prevalence in England and Wales

Since COPD is often under-diagnosed, estimations of COPD prevalence are tentative at best. However, one study suggests an estimated 1.5 million cases of COPD, taking into account those undiagnosed, in England and Wales alone. (Refer to page 5)

5. COPD accounts for around 4,000 workplace-related deaths annually

COPD has been linked to approximately 4,000 deaths due to worksite exposure—primarily to dust, gases, and fumes—every year in Great Britain. (Refer to page 6)

6. Certain professions present a higher risk of COPD

Jobs such as "seafarers and other boat operatives", "coal mine operatives", and "industrial cleaners", among others, exhibit a significantly higher prevalence of COPD compared to other occupations. (Refer to page 6)

7. COPD reported cases have been impacted by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially affected the reporting and assessment of new COPD cases. Consequently, recent health and safety statistics may not accurately reflect the true annual number of new cases. (Refer to page 7)

8. Substantial decrease in annual reported cases since 2012

The past decade has noted a substantial decrease in the annual number of reported cases, with an average of 85 annually since 2012. In fact, during 2021, only 65 new cases were assessed. (Refer to page 7)

9. A total of 10 IIDB cases due to cadmium poisoning since 2003

Since 2003, there have been only 10 new cases of emphysema due to cadmium poisoning within the IIDB scheme. (Refer to page 7)

10. The number of SWORD-reported cases far lower than IIDB claims

Whilst the Health and Occupation Reporting (THOR) network annually records a significantly lower number of new cases compared to IIDB claims, an average of only 23 SWORD-reported cases per year has been recorded over the last decade. (Refer to page 8)

Conclusion

In summary, COPD constitutes a major public health issue in Great Britain, contributing to thousands of deaths annually. Although smoking remains a dominant causative factor, workplace exposures also play a significant role—contributing to 15% of cases.

In future, understanding more accurately the role of occupational exposure in COPD prevalence and mortality remains an important area of study.

Author

Richard O'Connor's Headshot

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.

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