Every year more than two million people suffer ill-health caused by or made worse by their work.

It is estimated that this results in the loss of 13 million working days, costing British industry several hundred million pounds a year. Preventing ill-health will therefore help to protect your employees and your profits.

Although there may be a perception that this is only an issue in large industrial work environments, this is not the case. Businesses of all types and sizes are affected, including offices, catering, hairdressing/beauty therapy, retail & warehouse operations, cleaning services, garage services, building maintenance work, etc.

Work-related illness

Work-related illness, also known as occupational health, describes any illness an employee suffers because of the hazards they have been exposed to at work. There are a wide range of health risks capable of causing a variety of illnesses. Examples of such risks include:

Work Related illness
Health Risk  Ill-health effects   A few examples of work activities which involve these risks

Breathing in and handling hazardous substances e.g. asbestos, solvents wood dust

Cancer, Asthma, Dermatitis, Bronchitis


Hairdressing/beauty care.




Motor vehicle repair.

Repair and maintenance of older work premises.

High noise level



Woodworking machines in DIY/builders merchants.

Anywhere using power tools (incl. pneumatic tools).

Entertainment venues.

Vibration e.g. from hand-held tools

Vibration white finger (VWF)

Agricultural/Horticultural amenity work.

Hand held grinders.

Radiation e.g. UV radiation from prolonged outdoor work


Skin Complaints


Agricultural/Horticultural amenity work.

UV tanning salons.

Catering (microwave ovens).

Biological agents

Mild sickness to serious diseases e.g. Hepatitis B, Legionnaires disease

Skin piercing.


Agricultural/Horticultural amenity work.

Swimming pools, spa pools.

Some air-conditioning systems.


High blood pressure

Heart disease



Handling heavy or awkward loads Poor work postures Repetitive or forceful movements

Musculoskeletal disorders e.g. bad backs, upper limb disorders, 'RSI'

Warehousing/retail distribution.

Offices, call centres.

Anywhere where loads are moved.

Taking Action

Preventing ill-health requires sound management, summed up in the following 4 stages.

1. Find out if you have a problem

  • Talk to employees, look at sickness records, etc
  • Get information/advice from suppliers

2. Decide what action to take

  • Assess the risks
  • Evaluate existing precautions
  • Identify control measures needed
  • Prioritise your action

3. Take action - implement identified improvements

4. Check/review what you have done

This approach will help you anticipate and prevent problems rather than deal with them at much greater cost after they have arisen.

Where to go for help

Comprehensive guidance is available on the Health and Safety Executive website (HSE) website. Contact regarding advice, medical or otherwise, should be directed to the Health and Safety Executive Concerns and Advice Team. The team is based in Bootle, Merseyside and can be contacted by submitting the online form, emailing advice@hse.gov.uk or by telephoning 03000031747.


Specialist occupational health services:

  • Engineers (ventilation, noise, water treatment, etc)
  • Occupational hygienists
  • Occupational health doctors and nurses
  • Ergonomists
  • Microbiologists

Each of these groups has its own professional body who may be able to advise on selection and appropriate qualifications. There is also a free leaflet available, 'Selecting a health and safety consultancy' (see below)

Your enforcing authority

Newcastle City Council - Public Safety and Regulation

We are happy to give advice and information on both 'health' and 'safety'matters to businesses in Newcastle (and employees) for which we are the enforcing authority - shops, warehouses, offices, hotels and catering, sports, leisure, consumer services, (e.g. laundrettes, hairdressers, undertakers, shoe repair, tyre and exhaust fitters), residential care homes and churches.
Phone: 0191 211 6123

Health & Safety Executive

If your business is regulated by HSE - e.g. factories, building sites, mines and quarries, farms, fairgrounds, railways, public sector organisations, chemical plants, etc - you can contact them for advice.
Phone: 0191 2026200

For more information please phone the Health & Safety Section on 0191 211 6123.

Page last updated: 
14 May 2015
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