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2021: A Health and Safety reflection

As we are entering a new year, there’s no better time for an organisation to review its health and safety performance.

As with our personal lives (even if we try to avoid it), it is important to reflect on work and your business and as part of this review, you should consider what’s gone wrong; things like your accident and ill-health statistics for the year, as well as what has gone well.

Back in December 2021 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published their Summary accident and ill health statistics for 2021.

The headline figures in the recently published statistics are 1.7 million workers suffered from a work-related illness.  Of these 1.7 million workers 93,000 workers suffered from COVID-19 which they believe may have been from exposure at work, 470,000 workers suffered a work-related musculoskeletal disorder and topping the list, 822,000 workers suffered work-related stress, anxiety or depression.

A key point to take from this is that although Coronavirus has not gone away, there were far more workers suffering from work-related stress, anxiety and depression and so it is vital for organisations to have systems in place to recognise the signs of work-related stress and have measures in place to stop, lower and manage stress throughout the organisation.

The industries with higher-than-average rates of stress, anxiety and depression were public admin/defence; human health/social work and education.

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 or RIDDOR as it is more commonly known, 51,211 significant injuries sustained by employees as a result of workplace accidents were reported.

Slips, trips and falls at the same level and handling, lifting and carrying remain the two highest causes, equating for over 50% of all RIDDORs reported.  The Labour Force Survey is a national survey run by the Office for National Statistics and takes place each quarter where, approximately 37,000 households are surveyed.

Part of the survey asks questions to obtain an idea on work-related illness and workplace injuries.  According to this survey it is estimated 441,000 working people suffered an injury at work.

Lastly, we shall look at the topic of enforcement.  The Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the number of HSE prosecutions and enforcement notices that were issued, in that they have decreased from previous years.  Even so, 185 cases were prosecuted where a conviction was achieved.

Enforcement notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive totalled just under 3,000.  Again, this is a decrease compared to the previous year.

From the prosecutions where a conviction was achieved, £26.9 million was taken in fines.  Although the total value of fines due to COVID-19  has decreased the average fine per case has increased significantly from £107,000 to £145,000, and I think we can agree, that is not pocket money!

So, looking forward to 2022 with everything crossed that it is a much smoother year than the two that precede it, we should continue to have control measures in place to reduce the likelihood of Coronavirus in the workplace and ensure these are reflected in a Coronavirus risk assessment and communicated to all employees.

It would be prudent to review accident and ill-health statistics within your organisation to highlight any trends in causes, types of injury and frequency, with the aim to see if existing control measures are working and if anything can be done to reduce them further.

And finally, let us think about work-related stress, anxiety and depression. Tackling any problems early can lessen the impact later, so let us start the conversation and encourage our workers to talk to someone if they think they are having problems.

Remember we are not here to diagnose or treat work-related stress, but to provide support and help as soon as possible.  Taking action can prevent ill-health from stress, anxiety and depression and reduce workplace sickness absence.

It can also help to promote a positive health and safety culture and improve productivity and staff morale.

Workman writing on paper on table