Are Employees Really Safer Than Contractors?

banyardsolutionsHealth & Safety Statistics1 Comment

Are Contractors Really Safer Than Employees?

In our recent post, Contractor Management – Way More Than Orientation, we introduced the steps required to keep contractors safe while working in your facilities and highlighted why your duty of care goes much further than contractor orientation.

We did this within the context of the higher fatality rates experienced by UK self-employed people (0.79 per 100,000) compared with employees (0.40 per 100,000). (Source HSE: Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain 2016). Note that the statistics for 2015/16 are still provisional and will be finalised in July 2017.

The statistics clearly support the generally held view that contractors are less safe than employees in the workplace. But are they?

Let’s begin with the statistics themselves. The 0.79 vs 0.40 per 100,000 fatality rate is across all industry sectors with Agriculture producing significantly higher fatality rates (5.92 per 100,000 employees and 9.41 per 100,000 self-employed). All other sectors [showing a detailed breakdown] show a lower fatality rate for the self-employed vs employees with Construction at 2.05 fatalities per 100,000 employees and 1.78 fatalities per 100,000 self-employed workers.

There are still anomalies in the statistics, however, as the overall fatality rates, with Agriculture removed completely, yield a figure of 0.36 per 100,000 employees and a, still higher, rate of 0.46 per 100,000 for the self-employed. Yet, none of the individual sectors reported separately show a higher fatality rate for the self-employed. All are lower, including Construction. We’ll revisit these statistics once they are finalised later this month.

In researching this post, the obvious starting point was to explore the possibility that different reporting standards might explain the statistics showing a lower incident rate for contractors vs employees.

RIDDOR guidelines for the self-employed state that, ‘If you are working in someone else’s work premises and suffer either a specified injury or an over-seven-day injury, then the person in control of the premises will be responsible for reporting, so, where possible, you should make sure they know about it.’

But the statistics we’re reporting here are fatalities (finding a breakdown of UK incidents by serious/non-serious injury has eluded us thus far – please drop us a note in the comments below if you’ve seen these) so there really can’t be a reporting issue.

Therefore, if the generally held view that contractors are less safe than employees is not supported by the [provisional] statistics, how do we explain this? How do we explain that contractors are actually safer than employees despite the anecdotal evidence to the contrary?

Here’s our initial supposition…

We often find that FM companies only issue permits to work to contractors and not their own staff on the basis that their staff know what they are doing and are ‘competent’. This attempt to reduce the effort of issuing permits to their own staff may be inadvertently introducing their employees to risk.

 This adds weight to the argument that all workers – employed or contracted should work under a permit if they are doing potentially hazardous work.

Watch out for the statistics update to see if that sheds further light on the relative safety of contractors vs employees and also stay tuned as we look for the hard evidence to prove or disprove our supposition. You can subscribe below to have updates automatically delivered to your inbox.

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One Comment on “Are Employees Really Safer Than Contractors?”

  1. Pingback: HSE Stats Show Employees More At Rick Than Contractors | e-permits insights

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