Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) for workers has improved significantly over the last 30 years and fatal injuries are now rare events.

HSE (Health and Safety Executive) report an estimated 84% reduction in the number of fatal injuries since 1974. Non-fatal injuries reported are also continuing a downward trend.

The UK is one of the best performing member states in the EU with rates of fatal injuries lower than other large economic blocks such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain; however, probably due to increased awareness, there has been a rising trend in recent years of stress, depression and anxiety being self-reported. With these conditions accounting for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost in 2018/19 in Great Britain, organisations need to continue to monitor their health and safety management.

The only other increasing trend since 1974 is in the number of deaths from mesothelioma, mainly linked to exposure to asbestos prior to 1980. This is because symptoms do not appear until around 20 years after exposure (white asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999).

HSE statistics for fatal injuries

Provisional figures for 2018/19 released by HSE currently show that 147 workers were killed in Great Britain during this period (date source RIDDOR).

Agriculture, forestry and fishing currently have the highest number of reported deaths (32) closely followed by the construction industry (30) with manufacturing next (26).

The cause of most fatal accidents in the workplace is falls from height, followed by struck by moving vehicles.

These figures do not include deaths involving workers involved in road traffic accidents or workers travelling by air or sea and other exclusions that are recorded by other reporting authorities.

Continuing to improve the health of workers

  • There are many factors that have contributed to the general decline in reported workplace accidents in the UK:
  • The statutory obligation to report deaths, injuries and diseases that occur at work
  • Regulations that require employers to implement health and safety standards
  • Prosecution and fines for organisations in breach of regulations
  • Identification of the risks to employees whilst carrying out their work, through risk assessments
  • General awareness that has created a more safety-conscious environment
  • Management systems that provide organisations with a framework to effectively manage their health and safety responsibilities.

21st-century Occupational Health and Safety risks

Accidents and fatalities are well recorded and monitored by HSE. However, new areas for concern have been highlighted that can have an impact on the health of employees and cost employers time and money through worker absence and reduced productivity:
  1. Worker fatigue is estimated to cost the UK between £115 to £240 million each year according to HSE. Shift workers are particularly vulnerable. Night shifts and working long shifts with limited breaks can increase the number of accidents and injuries. Fatigue slows reaction time, reduces coordination and leads to the underestimation of risk, among other things. It has been the root cause of some of the most notorious accidents in recent history such as Herald of Free Enterprise, Chernobyl and Exxon Valdez.
  2. Mental health problems cost the UK economy between 74 billion and 99 billion per year with costs to employers of between 33 billion and 42 billion per year according to the “Thriving at work” report published in 2017. An HSE report in 2019 covering work-related stress, anxiety and depression in Great Britain states that 12.8 million working days were lost with 602,000 workers suffering from the condition. Common causes were tight deadlines, too much responsibility and lack of managerial support.
  3. Work-related violence is treated the same as any other risk related to working in the eyes of the law. In 2017/18 there were 694,000 incidents of violence at work. HSE’s definition of work-related violence is “Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.
  4. Employers have a legal duty to manage the risks that these health and safety issues present. They are responsible for reporting incidents and initiating measures to control and manage the risks.
With regulations and management duties enforced under the Health and Safety at work Act, fines and even imprisonment are handed out by the courts for businesses and individuals who do not comply with the law. The coroner, HSE, police and CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) can all be involved in an investigation into work-related deaths.

Maintaining an effective health and safety management system will provide a framework to help reduce deaths, accidents and poor health for employees and provide a safe environment for them to work. Employers will also benefit by reducing absenteeism and improving productivity.

You can find all the statistics here http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics and elsewhere on the HSE website.

Internationally recognised management system ISO 45001 (OHSAS 18001)

Health-and-Safety-proceduresFor organisations wanting to gain certification to a globally recognised health and safety standard, ISO 45001 certification will help reduce work-related injuries and increase production by minimising downtime.

Having a well-documented management system in place provides a framework that will demonstrate your commitment to the welfare of your employees and customers and help to reduce incidents and injury.

With the manufacturing and construction sectors being in the top 3 for reported workplace deaths, it is not surprising that organisations in these sectors regularly gain ISO 45001 certification to provide a management system that will reduce accidents and deaths in their workplace.

The recent migration of OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 has moved the standard to a different focus. Where OHSAS 18001 focussed exclusively on risk, ISO 45001 considers risk and opportunity and is process-based as opposed to procedure based. The changes will provide an improved framework to control and manage workplace safety.

The ISO 45001 assessment process

For organisations certified to ISO 45001, regular surveillance visits and audits are carried out to ensure your management system is maintained and is constantly evolving to keep up with the latest risks and regulations.

During an audit, which is carried out by a Certification Body, one of the areas you will be assessed on is document control. By documenting and investigating accidents and monitoring injuries you will be able to identify areas for improvement to prevent injury and ill-health in the future.

Steps can be taken to train employees, provide protective equipment or clothing, control working processes and continually monitor and review feedback on how your preventative measures are working.

The Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle (PDCA) which is the backbone of many ISO management system standards has also been adopted by HSE to: “treat health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than a stand-alone system”.

One of the main changes in the migration of OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 encourages top management to take the lead on incorporating the standard into the entire organisation and establish a safety culture throughout all operations of the business. The new format includes Annex SL which helps to implement the standard across multiple ISO management standards.

ISO 45001 migration from OHSAS 18001

The schedule for migration of OHSAS to ISO 45001 is taking place over a three-year period which ends on 12th March 2021. After this date, the OHSAS 18001 standard will be withdrawn.

If you currently have OHSAS 18001 certification and would like to migrate to ISO 45001, or you want to gain ISO 45001 certification for the first time, please call one of our team on 0121 241 2299 or request a quote.