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HSE study reveals high cost of sickness in waste sector

Sickness absence could be costing the waste and recycling industry £70m per year, according to a survey published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It states the average number of working days lost to sickness absence in the sector stands at 10.3 days per worker per year, or 4.0%. The HSE used the Confederation of British Industry estimates that state one worker being absent for one day will usually cost an organisation £100 to reach the figure of £70m.

Around 60% of lost working days were attributable to long term absences of 20 or more days, which is “significantly higher” than in other industries. The long term absences were made up of mental health complaints (34.1%), physical injuries (21.9%) and musculoskeletal disorders (16.6%).

As with HSE sickness surveys for other sectors, the difference between public and private sector sickness rates was “broadly comparable”, with 8,949 days lost by local authorities and 8,664 in the private sector.

Older workers were more likely to succumb to long term absences. Employees aged between 26 and 35 were 1.4 times more likely to take extended time off than their counterparts aged between 16 and 25. These numbers increased with age: workers aged 36 to 45, 46 to 55 and 55 and above were 2.0, 2.3 and 3.0 times more likely to take extended time off than 16-25 year olds, respectively.

The report said: “It is likely that measures to promote healthier lifestyles and improved health and wellbeing will be of particular benefit in waste and recycling workers, perhaps helping reduce the rates of long-term absences for these workers in particular.”

Data was collected over the course of three years of study with 28 local authorities and four private sector organisations providing information about the sickness records of 7,700 workers.

The full report can be read here.

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