2018/19 Workplace Fatalities – Why Change is Imperative

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety Issues/TrendsLeave a Comment

clarity on health and safety comparative statistics

The provisional Workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2019 statistics have been published by the HSE.

The resulting headlines thus far have been focused on the increase in workplace fatalities (147 in 2018/19p vs. 141 in 2017/18) with ‘workers falling from height’ being the major cause of fatal injuries at 40 and ‘being struck by a moving vehicle’ the next most common at 30.

While we would all agree that one fatality is one too many, the increase in the absolute number of fatalities is not, in itself, a major cause for concern as the fatality rate (fatalities per 100,000 workers) was 0.45 in 2018/19 which is the same as the average over the past five years. The increase in the absolute is down to the increased number of workers overall.

What is a major cause for concern is the fact that the fatality rate has plateaued over recent times having shown a sharp decline from a range above 2.0 in the early Eighties to it’s current level of 0.45, or thereabouts, earlier this decade.

Changes in legislation; stiffer sentencing guidelines; technological advances; new approaches such as Dekker etc.; have all (so far) failed to break through this statistical plateau, and it’s a breakthrough we have to strive to make…

What can we each change to make a positive contribution to this breakthrough? It’s an easy question to ask but a difficult one to answer. However, change is an imperative as doing the same things and expecting different results is a poor strategy.

Can you make improvements to your near miss reporting and learnings? Does it have to be Dekker or Heinrich or can the best of both approaches be combined as was the case with CHEP?

What can you do improve the health and safety culture in your organisation?

How can you help your senior management better understand the business benefits of health and safety?

How and what can you learn from other industry sectors or even others in your sector?

Even one small change can be a step towards breaking through the statistical plateau.

Change is afoot at the HSE with Sarah Albon taking over as CEO on September 1st this year. It will be interesting to see where Sarah focuses her efforts and to see positive outcomes.

The HSE report on workplace fatal injuries is a good example of where change could contribute to better outcomes. Accepting that consistency from year to year promotes comparison which is helpful, there are areas where the data presented obfuscates underlying issues that could potentially help reduce fatality rates.

One example is the analysis of self-employed and employee fatality rates. The basis of the analysis is the legal definition of the self-employed which obfuscates the working practices that may be leading to fatalities. As a simple illustration, we want to understand the difference between work carried out in-house (end-client or FM) and that contracted out but we can’t see that in the data presented. An employee fatality could be reported when, in fact, the person was an employee of the contracting company.

We’ll be running a webinar on breaking through the statistical plateau in the next few weeks and will add sign-up information to this post once we have the details set.

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