Figures released at the end of October by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show a fall in major injuries of more than 10 per cent between April 2012 and March 2013 which, according to HSE, “demonstrates that Britain continues to improve its health and safety performance.”
The significant reductions and the impact upon a similar fall in accident claims are to be welcomed as positive signs of continuing improvements in British companies observing health and safety regulations.
This year, HSE carried out month long,“unannounced” construction site visits in February and September, focusing on smaller sites where nearly three quarters of fatal accidents and serious injuries take place. Of the 400 sites HSE visited in February, many failed statutory safety checks in the prevention of the most common type of workplace accident, such as slips or trips (40 per cent), and falls from a height (more than 20 per cent).
Despite the year-on-year downward trend in accident figures, HSE state that they, “still see too many deaths and injuries occur in the workplace, many of which could have been prevented through simple safety measures.”
Safety hazard neglected
Recently, an example case of where “simple safety measures” were in place but an employee still suffered a serious injury, which left permanent physical damage.
A fence post, which had been installed to prevent access to the motorised parts of a machine also restricted entry to the working space, and the 42 year old production worker tripped over the fence, falling heavily and fracturing his wrist. Following six months off work, the machine operative is left with a permanently damaged wrist and a form of “early-onset” arthritis, which severely restricts hand movements.
A subsequent investigation discovered that the removal of the fence post had actually been recognised as a safety hazard and was on the company’s health and safety ‘To Do list’ to remove.
In some cases, months or even years of operating faulty or badly maintained equipment feature in workplace accident reports. Injuries like broken limbs or burns are obvious but using equipment which is clearly dangerous can lead to less obvious, long-term symptoms of physical injury and stress.
While workplace injuries are falling and awareness of Health and Safety issues rising, human error or oversight often leads to repeating the same problems of inadequately guarded machinery, neglect of risk assessments and failure to heed repeated warnings to make urgent safety improvements.