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Monthly H&S Review – January 2021
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January 2021 has, for many, lived up to its reputation of being the least enjoyable month of the year. It’s not easy to look back on the month that’s just passed and find many reasons to celebrate. It’s been a difficult start to the year and, of course, there’s plenty more hard work coming our way regardless of the sector we work in and the services we deliver.
The events of the past 12 months have split the conversations I have with people on a day-to-day basis into one of two categories with a very common theme. Whether I’m talking to friends and clients who are wondering how to pay the bills or how to cope with extensive periods out of work, or talking to those in work in a variety of occupations who have had the toughest working year of their lives – the common themes of struggling, coping and managing the effects on an individual's mental health are arising in almost every conversation I have.
The latest Health and Safety Executive statistics, covering the period 2019/20, show a continuation of the general trends consistent in recent years. Reduced work-related fatal injury rates and broadly flat rates of serious injury resulting from workplace accidents are reported. The workplace injury figures give us some confidence that all the work going into managing workplace safety is having an impact and reducing the likelihood of work-related accidents which result in serious injuries and fatalities.
It is of particular interest that the leading accident type resulting in non-fatal injuries to workers remains slips, trips and falls (29%). Injuries resulting from handling, lifting and carrying (19%) and those resulting from acts of violence (9%) also appear in the top 5 accident types and it will escape no one’s attention that these are also amongst the leading causes of employee injury in the health and social care sector.
Amongst the range of consequences of each and every workplace injury, beyond the effects on the injured person themselves, are significant financial impacts to businesses, not least from the estimated 6.3 million lost working days which result from such accidents annually. Of course, for each working day lost, there is an impact on the employees who remain in the business – additional workload and potentially overload of apparently unaffected employees is an often-forgotten consequence of a workplace injury.
Ensuring that you have identified and assessed the hazards and risks associated with your activities and controlled them as far as you reasonably practicably can is not only a legal requirement (Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999). There’s actually a benefit! It will help to reduce the likelihood of injuries affecting your employees. If you have less injuries, you lose fewer working days and detriment to colleagues and service users is avoided. It’s also vital to ensure you learn the lessons from each and every incident which does cause, or could have caused, injury in order to prevent the same situation occurring again. It seems clear to me that one of the many tools businesses can employ to reduce risks to the mental health of their employees is to provide them a safe place of work and protect them and their colleagues.
Health and Safety Services from Napthens from injury.
While overall rates of injuries from accidents at work are trending downwards, the opposite is true of the rates of work-related ill-health. With the latest figures from the HSE indicating 1.6 million new and longstanding cases of work-related ill-health in 2019/20 and work-related stress, depression and anxiety accounting for 51% of these, there is clearly work to do on improving employee health and managing the risks from work-related stress.
Workers in the Human Health and Social Work sectors are identified as having the 3rd highest rates of work-related stress, depression and anxiety, with 2,350 cases per 100,000 workers. In light of the fact that these numbers relate to the period before the main impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is clearly a case for real focus in this area for all employers and that the importance of doing so is going to increase in the coming months.
Much like the other workplace hazards mentioned earlier, those causing slips, trips and falls for example, employers also have a legal duty to identify, assess and manage the risks to employees from work-related stress. There’s no doubt that regular workplace inspections, cleaning up spillages and removing trailing cables are much simpler controls to implement than those you’ll need to deploy to manage workplace stress but thankfully the HSE has provided an extensive range of tools to assist. https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/what-to-do.htm
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