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Overview of the technical note - Workplace injury and work-related illness survey modules of the Labour Force Survey: Background and methods

A major source of information about work-related ill health, workplace injury and working days lost comes from two Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sponsored questionnaire modules attached to the national Labour Force Survey (LFS) - The Workplace Injury survey module (see Annex 1) and the Self-reported Work-related Illness (SWI) survey module (see Annex 2). The LFS, which is a survey of households, is the single most comprehensively reported data source for information about work-related illness and injury and a main source of information on working days lost.

A 'workplace injury' survey module was first included in the LFS in 1990, with a limited question set included annually since 1993/94. The LFS gives estimates of the levels of workplace injury by a range of demographic and employment-related variables.

The SWI survey module has been included in the LFS annually from 2003/04 to 2011/12, and periodically prior to this in 1990, 1995, 1998/99 and 2001/02 (although results prior to 2001/02 are not directly comparable with later time periods).  The SWI survey module was suspended for one year in 2012/13, but from 2013/14 returned to annual data collection. The SWI survey module provides an indication of the overall prevalence (including longstanding as well as new cases) and incidence (new cases) of work-related illness and its distribution by major disease groups and a range of demographic and employment-related variables (collected in the main LFS). Responses obviously depend on laypeople's perceptions of medical matters, but such perceptions are of interest and importance in their own right. However, they cannot be taken as an indicator of the “true” extent of work-related illness. People's beliefs may be mistaken: they may ascribe the cause of illness to work when there is no such link; and may fail to recognise a link with working conditions when there is one e.g. because of the possible multifactorial nature of ill health or the delay between exposure and ill health (several decades in the case of cancer).

Both the workplace injury and the SWI survey modules have since 2003/04 (and periodically prior to then) also provided information about the number of working days lost due to workplace injury and work-related ill health with the exception of 2012/13 when no ill health data was collected. Estimates of working days lost for both workplace injuries and work-related ill health are expressed as full-day equivalent days to take account of the variation in daily hours worked (for example part-timers who work a short day or people who work particularly long hours). This information is available by a range of demographic and employment-related variables.

Updated 2014-10-22