When deciding on where to live, many factors come into consideration, but something we rarely consider is whether it offers safe working environments and a better work-life balance.
Mental health issues in the last year alone have increased by 5% in the UK1, and with it, absence rates have increased. Mental health issues can take over 7.5 times longer to recover from than physical illnesses and it is vital that we take care of ourselves and choose wisely where to live and work.
Phoenix Health & Safety, UK health & safety training experts, have amalgamated and analysed five data sources from official national statistics to reveal the best and worst cities for your safety and wellbeing.
The Safety & Wellbeing Index analyses each city, rating them on five essential factors for safety and wellbeing and scores them on points out of 100. The chart weighs each factor, calculates a weighted total out of 100 (the lower the score, the safer the city).
The five contributing factors are:
- Non-fatal injuries in the workplace
- Sickness absence rates
- Mental health rates
- Local crime rates
- Death rates
In a three-way tie, Swindon, Luton and London share the title of the safest cities to live and work in the UK.
Each city averages out as great places to live and work, with low crime rates – Swindon boasts the third-lowest crime rate in England, risks of injury – Luton sets a standard with zero workplace injuries per capita of 1,000, and sickness – London’s rate of sickness is equally low – indicating an extremely low-level metric compared to other cities.
Swindon and Luton are both cities that have moved towards service and retail-based economies, away from the riskier industries of construction and manufacturing. London is known as the economic heart of the UK for a good reason. While it has a wide variety of industries, many international headquarters are located here, resulting in a glut of blue-collar jobs for the people working and living in the capital.
Reading comes in fourth, with a workplace death rate on one alongside a physical and mental health rating in the single digits, it’s clear that it is a city that takes both its employee safety seriously.
The worst cities for safety & wellbeing
There’s always room for improvement and these five cities, unfortunately, came through short-handed in the index for the safety & wellbeing of their workers.
The last place on the index goes to Wakefield with an average score of 80/100. This is due to Wakefield receiving extremely poor scores for the number of deaths and injuries in the workplace and even when paired with the relatively average scores for mental health, crime and sickness, the city remained one of the riskiest places to live and work.
Also in the bottom five rankings were Doncaster, Salford, Rochdale and Rotherham, showing that areas on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire are also not setting high standards for work-life balance and overall safety of workforces.
In fact, not only are the bottom five positions filled by northern locations but the bottom 3rd of the table consists entirely of locations from Northern England. It is clear there is a north-south divide in the standards of workplace health & wellbeing.
In terms of mental health, Liverpool dropped in at the bottom, with a disappointing 100 points which is the highest possible score, with Middlesborough only 8 points behind them. These areas have clearly got some work to do when it comes to supporting the people who live and work hard in these aresa day in, day out.
Nick Higginson, CEO at Phoenix Health & Safety states:
“Failure to follow government requirements and guidelines can result in hefty fines for employers, which could have been foreseen and avoided with the correct health & safety training and stronger processes which support their workforce.
“More recently we’ve seen a huge increase in demand for our stress management and wellbeing courses since the beginning of the pandemic. It is now more important than ever that you ensure employees feel safe, valued and able to talk about their mental health and wellbeing whilst at work.
Ensuring you have a well thought out policy and trained members of the team can lead to an overall increase in team happiness, retention and better adherence to the guidelines, which in turn should help the UK overall improve their Health & Wellbeing Index scores.”
The most dangerous jobs in the UK
The three most dangerous industries in the UK are construction, agriculture and manufacturing, hence why health & safety training such as NEBOSH and IOSH certification is a common requirement for a career in these industries.
Construction is the industry with the highest level of death rate, where it makes up for nearly 27% of the total workplace deaths in 20212. It also has a suicide rate three times higher than the national average.
The average UK salary for someone working in construction is £42,000, much higher than the national average of £27,0003, which may reflect the level of risk undertaken in construction.
Although in regards to wellbeing, the construction industry is plagued by long hours, somewhat hostile working conditions and men in the industry are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average worker2.
Farming is another notoriously dangerous industry4, it’s a solitary job and mental health is considered the most pressing concern by a whopping 88% of farmers5. The average salary of farmers is £32,5006, barely over the national average wage, and considering that 24% of all deaths in the UK occur in the farming industry4, it does not seem like remuneration reflects the dangers of the work.
Businesses can lose on average £8K for every sick employee
Last year there were over 2 million reported workplace injuries in the UK. On average, this costs the employer more than £8,300 for seven or more days off with a workplace illness and £5,100 with a non-fatal injury. This is something many smaller businesses cannot afford to compensate for7.
Fatal accidents can cost businesses up to £100,000 in fees, and employers paid over £3.2 billion in 2018/20198, not including potential fines from negligence, which can amount to millions if it leads to employee deaths9.
Three expert tips on how to improve the wellbeing and safety of your workplace
Nick Higgison, Managing Director, at Phoenix Health & Safety offers three key tips on maintaining better levels of safety and wellbeing for your workforce.
- Take mental health as seriously as physical health – By creating a culture in which employees know, for example, they can take a sick day for mental health-related issues equally as they could if they had a physical illness, you are creating a safer environment for people to work in. Employees will feel more comfortable sharing information which can lead to much better mental health in the workplace, and in turn, increase productivity.
- Reward employees for safe behaviour – When businesses offer a reward system for following safe behaviour, such as ensuring the correct processes are undertaken throughout their day to day role, it not only reinforces this to the workforce but would likely lead to less workplace injury. Others tend to follow suit as they understand the best way to be recognised for their hard work is to do things in the correct manner rather than the fastest way.
- Provide regular meetings on workplace safety – In many cases, health & safety training is taught when onboarding staff, although a one-off approach will not suffice when keeping your workplace safe continuously over the years. Regular health & safety training allows the business to refresh and remind employees of their duty to follow protocols and how this can impact their safety. It also allows staff an opportunity to ask any questions and offer an open flow of communication in the business.
Chris Winstanley is Head of Revenue at Phoenix Health & Safety, ensuring that everyday hundreds of people are protected in the workplace.