Are UK employers complacent about worker safety?
With latest annual national statistics showing that 581,000 people sustained an injury at work during 2018/19 in the UK, directly resulting in an estimated 4.7 million lost working days in that time period, it’s clear that accidents at work are having a significant and detrimental impact on those who are injured, their employers and the economy as a whole.
The types of accidents at work that caused the injuries are broken down below:
The most common industries for workplace accidents are agriculture, forestry and fishing, followed by construction, then those working in food services and motor vehicle mechanics.
Despite 581,000 injuries sustained at work being reported by workers themselves via the Labour Force Survey in 2018/19, employers reported just 69,208 workplace injuries in that same time period to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as required by the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
Whilst not all injuries at work must be reported by employers under RIDDOR, those that should be include injuries that result in an employee being off work for at least seven consecutive days, which accounts for at least 138,000 of the injuries reported in 2018/19 by workers themselves, so there is a clear disparity between the figures. This means that potentially around 50% of significant injuries that were sustained at work may have gone unreported by the employers responsible for safeguarding their workforce and ensuring that the company’s health and safety processes are compliant with the latest regulations.
Head of Personal Injury at Hampson Hughes Solicitors, Tracy Bond, commented:
“I think that these latest figures are very worrying, not only because the number of accidents at work are still extremely high, but also because it seems that not all employers are properly reporting incidents that they are required to by law, which smacks of complacency to me. Unfortunately, I speak to clients every day who have been avoidably injured at work, sometimes seriously, due to their employer’s negligence, and we often see a blatant disregard for the safety and wellbeing of employees in workplaces across the country.”
“I’d like to see more employers start taking responsibility for their legal and moral obligations to staff and the reality is that this will benefit not only the workers, but employers themselves too, as the number of working days lost to workplace injuries annually is very costly. When robust health and safety processes are in place, which are taken seriously by companies and their staff, the number of avoidable injuries will always decrease, which is in everyone’s best interests.”
In a recent case won by Hampson Hughes, a 56-year-old woman, who worked in a well-known supermarket chain café in London, was awarded £17,000 in compensation after she slipped at work on water on the floor that had seeped from leaking binbags left by cleaning staff. Her fall resulted in a compound arm fracture and ongoing damage that has left indefinite pain at the site of the injury and means she is reliant on painkillers. Her employer admitted liability for the accident.
Bond said, “Sadly, this case is typical of many that we see. This employee was simply carrying out her everyday duties at work but because her employer didn’t take the proper measures to protect their workers, our client has been injured, potentially permanently, as a result. We’re very pleased that our client was able to get a measure of justice with the compensation awarded, but it doesn’t change the pain and distress that this accident has caused. Nobody wins in situations like this, which is why we’re calling for greater accountability for employers when it comes to worker safety and the accurate reporting of injuries so that lessons can be learned.”