It Could Never Happen To Me, Could It?

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Crossrail Construction Project

There were 144 fatal injuries to workers in the UK in the fiscal year period 2015/16. A number, thankfully, with a long term downward trend although a number that seems to be levelling off over recent years.

That couldn’t be you could it? I don’t mean one of the 144, but one of the duty holders held responsible for a fatality who has to go to court and face the bereaved families and who is equally likely to undergo a life changing experience. Because, ultimately, although it’s often companies who are fined through Health & Safety at Work and/or Corporate Manslaughter legislation, it’s individuals who have to face the harrowing experience of a court visit and trial.

Nick Varney, the CEO of Merlin Entertainments, put this sincerely and eloquently outside court after their conviction following the Smiler ride disaster when he said they were not an emotionless corporate entity and that the biggest punishment for them is personal in knowing they let people down with devastating consequences. The link above includes a video of Nick’s statement.

144 fatal injuries. How relevant is that to you? To dig into the statistics and try to establish relevance, I focused on the construction industry which had 43 fatalities over same period.

Industry statistics establish ‘incidence rate’ which, with 2.15M construction workers in the UK, produces an incidence rate of around 2 (per 100,000 workers). If you have 50,000 workers under your duty of care then the incidence rate suggests you could have one fatality per year. Even Hinkley Point C only has an estimated 5,600 workers at it’s peak but it’s a 7 to 10 year project suggesting a strong likelihood of a fatality over the life of the project.

Are statistics helping here? I also looked at hours worked. Simple maths convert the incidence rate for construction from 2 fatalities (per 100,000 workers) to 1 per 86M hours worked. And then I checked Crossrail statistics and found this article which stated they had just passed the 100M hours worked on the project. Sadly, the article was published a short time after the first fatality on the project, that of Rene Tkacik in 2014.

The statistics seemed to work out in the case of Crossrail. So, if you’re only managing small projects and not involved in these mega-projects, you have nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. I checked the HSE fatality details for the same period and of the 43 construction related fatalities, 16 of the 21 [where I could readily find the size of the project] were relatively small projects. That’s 75%. Of course, the statistics aggregate across multiple projects.

So where does that leave us? Well, the risk of fatality is ever present, whoever you are, whatever sector and whatever size project. Danger never sleeps, our job is to help you sleep at night by ensuring you have the right people, with the right skills, working to the right method statement, in the right place, at the right time, and to provide an associated audit trail.

“I use e-permits as they allow me to sleep at night. It gives me peace of mind knowing that all regulations are in order and that the workers are fully competent and safe.”Paul Hood, Head of Engineering, Barclays

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