Managing Health & Safety may well be regarded by many as the proverbial thorn in one’s side, a nanny state gone mad or a costly, time consuming aspect of life that impacts on virtually every facet of our existence with far reaching implications from work through to social and leisure time.

Let’s face it, it can be a great fall-back position for when we want to ‘persuade’ others into a new process or use it as a way of limiting certain actions. However, look at the statistics and you might think twice the next time you find yourself cursing the 1974 Act that causes so much perceived hassle. In the Construction Industry for example there have been significant reductions in both the number and the rate of injury as a result of legislation but as the facts below illustrate, as an industry we still make up large numbers and we’re a long way from what might be considered anything like an acceptable standard:

Construction related Statistics 2013/14

  • 31% of fatal injuries to employees
  • 10% of all major specified injuries
  • 2.3 million lost working days
  • 1.7 million as a result of ill health with 592.000 due to workplace injury
  • a total of 1.1 days lost per worker
  • a total cost to society of over £1.1 billion

Bearing in mind that the industry still only accounts for around 5% of employed workers in the UK and those numbers still look high.

The HSE graph below shows the reduction in fatalities in industry over the last 25 years but it seems we still have a long way to go in making the industry safer.

health and safety

Graph depicting fatalities from 1974 when the Act was introduced to 2010 (number of people per year per industry

A broader view shows that something as simple as slips and trips account for 1 in 3 non-fatal major injuries and 1 in 5 over 3 day injuries in the wider workplace in the UK. That accounts for 35,000 injuries a year or one serious accident every 3 minutes. It seems hard to believe but the HSE suggests most of these accidents are due to contaminated surfaces – water, grease and even talc type substances, all seemingly innocuous but with a major impact to the economy and to individuals.

On a lighter note interpretation of the H & S Legislation can go a step too far… the following are not legal requirements from the Health & Safety Executive in spite of what you may have read.

A job advert for bus drivers with a body weight limit of 18 stone

Declining a glass of water to a person who had come round from a fainting episode

Children being banned from playing conkers in school

Banning Christmas decorations from offices

Hanging baskets for fear of people bumping their heads

School children wearing clip on ties so they can’t be choked by traditional neckwear

Park benches being too low

And finally….. Graduates not being allowed to throw their mortar boards in the air – more about damage to the hats than to any individual.

Keep it simple…

As an employer you have responsibilities to keep your employees and/or visitors and contractors as safe as possible. Protecting people from harm and therefore protecting the success and future of your business doesn’t have to be complicated – some fairly basic tasks can be used to control the risks in your business and also protect you from the possibility of litigation. A Risk Assessment should allow you to identify sensible measures to do this as long as you consider everyone who could be harmed including homeworkers or even members of the public if they could be injured through your activities.

Some specific risks may have legal requirements such as working at height or with chemicals and you will also have an obligation to provide a healthy working environment as well as maintaining premises and equipment. Don’t forget also that risks can change as your business or equipment changes.



Do your bit…

There’s a lot of information about requirements to be found on the HSE website but to have an immediate effect perhaps we just need to eliminate the simplest stuff… trips, slips and falls.

Pay attention to your surroundings; expect the unexpected and pay attention to good housekeeping – it’s worth it in the end!

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