Working anywhere, even in an office, carries with it a number of risks. Sometimes this is an unavoidable factor of the type of work, sometimes the employer could have stepped in to put a healthier working environment in place, and sometimes the employer has quite clearly failed in their duty to their employees. That said, if you know what the most common risks are, you stand a much better chance of avoiding the worst possible outcomes, and knowing if what happened to you was avoidable and unnecessary.

These are the top five most common types of work-related illness, according to the very latest government statistics from the Health and Safety Executive or HSE.


Heavy Lifting Can Cause Musculoskeletal Pain

Image by EpicFireworks

Musculoskeletal injuries represent the most common type of mid-to-long-term work-related illness by some distance. Musculoskeletal injuries can be due to anything from bad working practice to excessive load to poor supervision, and are easily incurred if your training hasn’t been up to scratch.

Of these injuries, lumbar spine and trunk injuries are the most common, followed by hand, wrist and arm injuries, and injuries to the neck and thoracic spine. Less common are hip, knee, ankle and foot injuries.

Musculoskeletal injuries represent approximately 46% of total workplace-related diagnoses.

Mental Ill Health

Mental ill health is a serious matter, and one that’s difficult to overcome for employees. It’s also easy for employers to contribute towards mental ill health, and towards the suffering incurred by mental ill health – not that this is an excuse.

Of workplace-related mental ill health, the vast majority is anxiety and depression. Following these closely linked illnesses is PTSD, with alcohol and drug abuse being among the rarest of workplace-related mental health problems.

Difficulty with mental health represents approximately 37% of total workplace-related diagnoses.

Skin Conditions

Skin conditions, many of them significant or serious, can be caused by badly managed workplaces or by workplace accidents in lots of ways. Working with dangerous chemicals can be especially likely to cause painful and debilitating skin conditions in the short-term, long-term, or even permanently.

The majority of skin conditions, though, are caused by much more mundane chemicals; soaps and cleaners, water, and rubber are all roughly equal partners in crime. Water is especially surprising, as it seems fairly harmless, but prolonged repeated or continuous exposure to water can definitely contribute to or cause skin conditions. If an employee is not told to take proper precautions to protect when working in situations that can cause debilitating skin conditions, the employer may be to blame for their condition.

Skin conditions account for around 9% of total workplace-related diagnoses.


Lung Cells

Image by Yale Rosen

The incidence of respiratory work related illness, affecting the lungs and other breathing apparatus, has declined to almost half the levels of 1999. That said, it is still a significant source of work-related illness.

Unfortunately, some of the most common respiratory illnesses caused by the workplace are very serious. While benign pleural disease may even be asymptomatic, it is a huge warning sign of serious damage inflicted to the lungs by asbestos and should not be taken lightly. Benign pleural disease is a sign of exposure to asbestos that may cause the development of cancer within the lung. The next most common respiratory workplace illnesses are malignant mesothelioma and asthma, either of which can kill and certainly render the sufferer unable to perform their work as much as they used to.

Respiratory conditions account for just 2% of work related illnesses, but may be much more immediately life-threatening than many of the other categories.


Audiological problems in the workplace, usually any difficulty in hearing or tinnitus, can render a worker unable to work, threatening their livelihood.

Audiological problems can cause further effects, especially immediately after the damage has been revealed. Suddenly losing the ability to hear can result in social frustration and extreme difficulty maintaining the life and circle of friends one had before the damage was inflicted.

Audiological problems account for around 1% of work related illnesses.

Dealing With Work Related Illnesses

As an employer, dealing with work related illnesses is as simple as identifying the most common and most dangerous problem areas (lifting, carrying, long hours, stress, dangerous chemicals and loud noises) and minimising or regulating employee contact with these areas to decrease the risk of illness.

As an employee, there’s a limited amount you can do to avoid these situations, but if you try to take steps, for example requesting sensible changes to the work environment, and these are ignored it could be worth keeping a record of the exchange. If you have contracted a work related illness, the employer may owe you compensation.

If you feel that you are owed compensation due to a work related illness, LoyaltyLaw may be able to help. Get in touch for a no-obligation chat today!

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