Government cuts threaten to increase workplace injuries
In October 2010, the government announced cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and to local authority budgets. This has raised concerns that it will be easier for rogue employers to take risks with their employees’ safety. The extent of the cuts mean there will be fewer visits to workplaces, fewer enforcement actions and a reduced level of health and safety guidance which is likely to mean an increased number of workplace injuries.
Concerns were also raised regarding the Young Review, described by the TUC as a “grave disappointment.” The report aims to reduce bureaucracy in “non-hazardous occupations” and to put in procedures for challenging decisions to cancel events based on health and safety concerns. However, Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC said, “This report is a missed opportunity to improve the UK’s workplace safety record and by failing to challenge the myths around health and safety it could actually make things much worse.” The report was criticised for focusing on health and safety “myths” instead of proposing measures to reduce workplace injuries. Every year, many serious injuries do occur in “non-hazardous occupations” such as office work or teaching.
One of the most risky occupations is agriculture. Agricultural workers make up 1.5% of the working population but experience 15-20% of all worker deaths in the UK and one of the highest rates of workplace injuries. The level of risk of injury in this sector means that more measures need to be put into place to reduce this.
However, relatively innocuous scenarios can also result in injuries, including injuries which may not be immediately apparent but can result in long term health problems.
A serious event as defined by the HSE is one which results in a fatality or more than 3 consecutive days off work. If a serious event occurs, the employer is required by law to report it to the HSE so the causes of the incident can be established. In 2008/09, the number of fatalities reported to the HSE in the UK was 152 and the number of serious accidents reported was 233,000 meaning that for every 100,000 workers in the UK, 840 of them were involved in a reportable incident.
HSE statistics indicate that slips and trips are the most common type of workplace injury. An injury from a slip or trip can occur in any type of workplace, including “non-hazardous occupations” and can result in injuries such as fractures, sprains, grazes, cuts and bruising.
Other workplace injuries include falls from a height, contact with machinery, injuries resulting from manual handling, contact with harmful substances or accidents involving workplace transport.
It is estimated that as many as 800,000 people who last worked over a year ago were still suffering from an illness which was caused or made worse by their past work. If you have been injured in a workplace injury which was not your fault, you may be able to submit a claim for compensation.