Technical summary of data on Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease reports
Made by employers to HSE and Local Authorities since 10 April 2020
Where a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence to suggest that it was caused by occupational exposure, employers are required to report the case to the relevant enforcing authority under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013(RIDDOR).
In order to contribute to evidence around cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in workers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are publishing counts of notifications made by employers to the enforcing authority (either HSE or Local Authority) of suspected cases of occupational COVID-19 in workers in Great Britain, based on these statutory reports.
The figures include:
- total count of notifications where a worker is reported as having died as a result of COVID-19 following suspected occupational exposure
- total count of notifications where a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 following suspected occupational exposure
Description of the data source
HSE collects data on cases of disease in workers resulting from exposure to biological agents under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (2013) - RIDDOR. (Specifically, regulation 6(2) and 9(b)). The intention of these regulations is to ensure that the enforcing authority (either HSE or Local Authority) is notified of cases of certain occupational disease so that where appropriate, they can take follow-up action.
Notifications must be sent to HSE without delay. Reports are made via the online reporting tool provided on HSE’s website. For deaths, employers can also report by telephone to HSE’s Incident Contact Centre.
On receipt of the notification in the database, the report is automatically allocated to the appropriate enforcing authority where further checks on the data provided are made and where appropriate investigations initiated. During these checks, some reports may be identified as non-reportable under RIDDOR requirements (for example they may be reports of general workplace COVID-19 concerns) while for others, the enforcing authority may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to confirm work as the source of exposure. Reviewing individual case reports can take some time. This further information is not retrospectively recorded against the original report.
Previously published data
HSE does not routinely publish statistics based on RIDDOR disease notifications. This is because the disease notification system suffers wide-spread under-reporting and has the potential to give a distorted view of both the scale and spread of cases by important risk factors (such as industry sector). While HSE routinely publish statistics based on RIDDOR injury notifications, there are a number of important differences:
- the level of under-reporting of non-fatal injuries can be quantified (we only publish statistics of non-fatal injuries to employees and not self-employed due to the substantial under-reporting for these workers)
- RIDDOR non-fatal injuries to employees is used as a secondary source of data to support and complement statistics on workplace non-fatal injuries from the Labour Force Survey
Disease reporting also has the additional difficulty of reliably attributing a case of disease to an occupational exposure. This is particularly difficult in the case of COVID-19 where the infection is prevalent in the general community.
However, given the current priority of COVID-19, HSE is publishing, as management information, details of work-related COVID-19 reports made to the enforcing authorities under RIDDOR. This data, while not providing an accurate count of the absolute number of occupational COVID-19 cases in Great Britain, will provide an indicator of the numbers being reported to the enforcing authority and show how this changes over time.
The following limitations should be borne in mind when considering the data:
- the count comprises cases of COVID-19 in workers that are reported by employers to the enforcing authority - data is 'as-reported' by employers. Employers should only report diagnosed COVID-19 cases where they believe there is reasonable evidence to suggest the case was caused by occupational exposure. (Reports relating to non-workers, particularly to residents in care and residential homes and users of social day care services, have as far as possible been excluded as they are outside the scope of RIDDOR reporting requirements).
- the data does not give an accurate measure of the absolute scale of occupational COVID-19 cases due to a number of factors including:
- widespread under-reporting of cases in RIDDOR
- while reports by employers should only be made where there is reasonable evidence that the worker was exposed because of their work, the strength of evidence in reports appears variable, some reports just noting the potential for work-related exposure to have occurred
- individual case reviews by the relevant enforcing authority may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to confirm work as the source of exposure. Further, some reports may be found to be general workplace concerns and so not-reportable under RIDDOR.
- because the data is ’as reported‘ by employers, there is potential for some error in some of the reported data items. In particular, there is potential for some non-fatal COVID-19 cases to have been reported as fatal and vice versa. Further, a review of a sample of reports shows some mis-allocation in the coding of the industry in which the worker is employed. In particular, workers in residential and social care, often get incorrectly recorded as working in the accommodation sector or in personal services
- data on cases of COVID-19 is only available on a consistent basis from 10th April. This was the date at which HSE modified the disease report form to enable cases of COVID-19 to be readily identified. Also the date at which HSE issued guidance around the reporting of cases of COVID-19 deaths.
More information on COVID-19 RIDDOR reporting requirements is available.