The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has unveiled plans to tackle three major causes of ill health and disease in the workplace in 2017.

Reducing the number of people suffering with work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease are priorities for the HSE’s new five-year health and safety strategy, revealed this month.

The national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness aims to work closely with employers, employees, union reps as well as the wider community during the coming months to raise awareness and drive significant changes to bring down incidence rates.

At present, limb or back injuries, also known as musculoskeletal disorders, are the cause of 41 per cent of all occupational ill health cases and led to the loss of 8.8 million working days in 2015. Such injuries are most common in industries such as construction, agriculture and healthcare.

The HSE is also committed to reducing the incidence of occupational lung diseases, including asthma and mesothelioma, which currently lead to an estimated 12,000 deaths a year.

Occupational stress, which affected around 500,000 people between 2015 and 2016, will also be targeted.

“With roughly 1.3 million employees suffering from work-related illnesses last year and 144 fatally injured in the workplace, it’s clear that there is still much more to be done before the UK’s workforce is as safe as it should be,” said Gerard Stilliard, head of personal injury at Thompsons Solicitors, which has dedicated accident at work specialists across the UK.

“It’s positive to see that these three key issues are being acknowledged, but it’s up to the government to take these on board and improve safety laws. We know that the HSE’s resources are stretched but negligent employers must continue to be held accountable which is why it is vital that employers’ liability claims are not unfairly caught up in the government’s proposed reforms to whiplash claims.”