Work-related ill health in rail ranks among the highest when compared with other industries, according to latest research by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
Sickness absence in rail is 3.9%, compared with 1.8% in the private sector, and the ORR estimates the cost to industry at around £316 million a year.
The ORR’s Better health is happening report shows that there has been an improvement in the industry’s management of worker health in the four years since the ORR’s first health report in 2010, but that more still needs to be done to prioritise health in the same way as safety.
ORR HM Inspector of Railways in the Central Specialist Inspectors’ Team Sharon Mawhood told RAIL that one of the major barriers to this is the recording of health data.
“One of the weaknesses in any part of the industry is that they haven’t been collecting consistent, reliable health data,” she said.
The knock-on effect is that it is difficult to calculate the cost to industry of work-related absence.
Mawhood added: “We don’t have completely reliable data on the cost of work-related health, because large parts of the industry don’t actually know how much of their sickness absence is work-related.
“Two thirds of the rail companies that we surveyed couldn’t distinguish work-related sickness absence from overall sickness absence.”