According to the latest statistics released by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 2015/16 saw some 30.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and non-fatal workplace injuries. Here Cabinet Maker takes a look at the data and details some best practice when it comes to mattress production.

The latest report into health and safety for the HSE was published at the very end of 2016, detailing all the latest trends and statistics when it comes to UK workers. 

The report – Health and safety at work Summary statistics for Great Britain 2016 – is compiled using a number of preferred sources: the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR); Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (ESQCR); the Labour Force Survey; Voluntary Reporting of Occupational Diseases by General Practitioners (THOR GP); Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit Scheme (IIDB); and Death Certificates as a Source of Deaths from Asbestos-Related and Other Occupational Lung Diseases.

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Headline Findings

Amongst the headline statistics the report revealed that 144 people were killed at work during the year 2015/16, with 72,702 other employee injuries reported under RIDDOR. 

Of the fatalities reported, the most common were falls from height (26%), being struck by a moving vehicle (19%) and being struck by a moving object (10%) accounting for a little over half of all fatalities.

The Labour Force Survey reported that 621,000 injuries occurred at work. This kind of injury and illness resulted in the loss of a massive 30.4 million working days during the period due to work-related illness and workplace injury. 

Common Causes

Of the non-fatal injuries, the most common were caused by handling, lifting or carrying (20%), slipping or tripping (19%), and being hit by a moving object (10%), accounting for around half.

The HSE stated that there has previously been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injury, which more recently has shown signs of leveling out. The rate of self-reported non-fatal injury to workers showed a downward trend up to 2010/11; since then the rate has been broadly flat.

However, the rate of non-fatal injury to employees reported by employers (including over-7-day and specified injuries only) fell in 2015/16, continuing the downward trend.

Sector specifics

In terms of sector specifics, those industries with statistically higher ill health rates were: Human Health and Social Work, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Public Administration and Defence and Education. Conversely, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Construction, Accommodation and Food Services, Transport and Storage, Manufacturing and Wholesale and Retail Trade saw statistically significantly higher injury rates than for all industries.

When it came to fatalities, of the 144 deaths reported under RIDDOR, three were within the wholesale and retail trades (except of motor vehicles and motorcycles, according to the sector SIC code), and 27 in manufacturing. Looking in even greater detail, of those 27, five were involved in manufacture/fabrication of metal products (except machinery and equipment), one in the manufacture of rubber and plastic products, and one in the manufacture of furniture.



Of the 72,702 non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR, 255 were involved in the manufacture of textiles, 19 in leather and related products, 1,071 in the manufacture/fabrication of metal products (except machinery and equipment), and 344 in the manufacture of furniture. Some 7,903 non-fatal injuries occurred in the wholesale and retail trades (except of motor vehicles and motorcycles).

As this issue of Cabinet Maker has a beds and mattresses theme, we here offer a reminder of some of the HSE’s recommendations for best practice when it comes to mattress manufacture, as detailed following its campaign, alongside the bed industry, to lower injury rates. At the time (2005) bed manufacturing had approximately twice the average rate of manual handling injuries. A report was published, identifying the tasks with the highest risk of causing injury, which were:

1. Tape-edging (highest risk)

2. Handling, generally carried above the head

3. Divan assembly and dressing 

4. Mattress assembly 

5. Tufting 

6. Spring assembly and hand stitching of mattresses 

Risk Factors

The findings were revealed to manufacturers during a series of seminars, where companies were issued with benchmarks for these tasks and asked to produce their own 3-year action plan showing how they would achieve these. Their progress was monitored by telephone interviews and site visits and these identified that a lot of improvements had been made. 

Issues reported which of consequence to health & safety, included:

• Frequently handling loads of 20kg or less throughout the working day

• The size of divans, which makes them difficult to handle

• Repetitive use of upper limbs and awkward wrist postures when using staple-guns 

• Repetitive application of pressure on the staple-gun trigger 

• Risk of cuts/puncture wounds from staple-guns


The HSE’s Recommendations for Risk Reduction – a reminder 

• By rotating jobs or reducing the time spent on a high-risk task, you can help minimise the level of risk operators are exposed to. 

• Reduce the bending and stooping that operators have to perform - height adjustable tables would be useful to help reduce awkward postures. 

• Reassess the work layout and organisation if divans are carried over long distances. 

• Low vibration stapling guns suspended from the ceiling on a counterbalance could help minimise muscle fatigue. 

• Automated systems such as conveyors could be set to table height so that dressed divans can be pushed from the worktable onto the conveyor to avoid manual handling. 

• In circumstances where it would be unsuitable to use automated systems, working in teams of two could help to reduce the risk of injury to upper limbs, both from repetitive use of the staple-gun, and manual handling of the divans.