According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, only 40% of major occupational accidents are reported each year even though informing the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) about such incidents is a legal requirement and recent changes to legislation could be about to make the problem even worse.
Workplace equipment provider Slingsby, which supplies more than 35,000 products to all industries including a wide range of health and safety related equipment, believes that many people are unaware of the importance of reporting and logging accidents.
Recent changes to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 mean that since April, employers no longer have to report injuries which keep workers off normal duties for seven days or less.
By increasing the reporting threshold from three to seven days, the changes also align with the 'fit note' system which ensures someone who is off work due to a reportable injury has a professional medical assessment.
Employers and others with responsibilities under RIDDOR must still keep internal records of all injuries that lasted more than three days and continue to report all serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences or near misses.
Lee Wright, Marketing Director of Slingsby says: “These changes mean that approximately 30,000 fewer accidents have to be legally reported each year. In addition employers now have 15 days to report accidents instead of 10 days. Obviously these changes are saving British firms thousands of hours that it takes to complete official paperwork which is a good thing but with so many accidents already going unreported relaxing the laws could escalate the problem.
“It’s also important to remember that in addition to serious incidents every workplace accident, even if it’s very minor, should be recorded in an accident book. This must contain full details about the accident including the date and time, the people involved, the nature of the injuries and how it happened. However the fact that so few serious accidents are reported suggests a lot of workplace accident books are sat collecting dust.”
Lee adds: “Recording accidents is often of benefit to employees because if they need time off work, or struggle to recover from a workplace accident, then there is a written record of what happened. The accident book is also a useful reference tool to show employers where improvements need to be made in order to improve their safety records.”
There have been several high profile incidents in recent years where businesses have been prosecuted and fined because they have failed to report accidents. One included a national supermarket chain that failed to report three employee accidents. This was uncovered during an investigation into the company’s failure to stop an unsafe working practice that involved using a metal plate to unload vehicles at a store.
The retailer was fined £34,000 after pleading guilty to three breaches of Regulation 3 of RIDDOR and two of these charges involved the firm not reporting accidents by the quickest practicable means. The third charge was a failure to send a report to the enforcing authority within 10 days.
At another business, a migrant worker suffered crush injuries whilst cleaning a machine and another employee suffered an amputation and burn injury to a finger from a heat-sealing mechanism on an inadequately guarded machine. The employer was prosecuted and faced a number of fines for health and safety breaches including £3500 for failing to report the accidents.