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October 6th 2021

Accidents at Work

Accident at work statistics and ‘attitudes’ towards health and safety show ‘Vision Zero’ still a long way off despite further calls to create a ‘prevention culture’

Sarah Kidd

Sarah Kidd

Associate, Personal Injury

Accident at work statistics and ‘attitudes’ towards health and safety show ‘Vision Zero’ still a long way off despite further calls to create a ‘prevention culture’

A personal injury lawyer with more than a decade of experience handling accident at work claims believes “attitudes” towards health and safety in the UK are thwarting ‘Vision Zero’ and its goal of creating a ‘prevention culture’ in the workplace.

A personal injury lawyer with more than a decade of experience handling accident at work claims believes “attitudes” towards health and safety in the UK are thwarting ‘Vision Zero’ and its goal of creating a ‘prevention culture’ in the workplace.

Sarah Kidd, an Associate Solicitor who has successfully secured accident at work compensation for hundreds of clients at Hudgell Solicitors since 2008, was reacting to the latest push of the global strategy at the 2021 World Congress for Safety and Health at Work in Canada ahead of Vision Zero Day on October 26 .

Vision Zero called for a “future for all without accidents at work” when it was launched at the World Congress in 2017 by the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

And the ISSA was on hand at this year’s event in Toronto to provide an update on the strategy and challenge the delegates from across the world by stressing: “Vision Zero starts with you – today!”

Ms Kidd has welcomed the focus on reducing the number of accidents at work – but said the fact 65,427 injuries to employees were reported in the UK last year shows much still needs to be done.

“If strategies like Vision Zero improve the situation then that’s great as none of us want people to get injured at work,” she said.

“Some people have life-changing injuries and I’m sure we all support regulations that serve to ensure this risk is kept to its lowest; unfortunately, and all too often, employers choose to ignore these regulations.

“Attitudes towards health and safety are a real issue. You hear it all the time about ‘health and safety gone mad’ and I think some people treat it like it’s an unnecessary restriction on their ability to get things done.

“That’s a really unhelpful attitude because people then say ‘oh, we have to have this health and safety, we’ll do a tick-box sheet, but then do what you need to do to get the job done’.

“It’s great to hear all these things being talked about at the World Congress, but it’s all about the trickle-down effect.”

World Congress renews calls to achieve goal of ‘zero harm’

When ‘Vision Zero’ was launched by the ISSA four years ago in Singapore, it was sold as a “transformational approach” to preventing accidents at work.

It said: “Accidents at work are neither predetermined nor unavoidable – they always have causes. By building a strong prevention culture, these causes can be eliminated and work-related accidents prevented.”

Initially started as a campaign, Vision Zero has gained momentum to become a strategy and recently reached the milestone of 15,000 supporters worldwide, which include companies, partner institutions and occupational safety and health (OSH) trainers.

The World Congress, which was held virtually for the first time, brought the prevention community together to address global priorities in the sector, with delegates from 125 countries taking part in the event from September 20-23.

Due to the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congress organisers insisted that “prevention is on everybody’s minds” and stressed that in the past year “safety and health at work has emerged as the critical issue around the world”.

Ahead of Vision Zero Day on October 26 and the International Vision Zero Conference in Lagos, Nigeria, from November 23-25, the World Congress in Toronto was being used to “take stock of developments” since the launch of the strategy.

A technical session on Vision Zero looked at the success of the strategy and the methods that have been used to “mobilise and inspire” the commitment of business leaders, political decision-makers, social partners, authorities and OSH professionals to “promote a safe and healthy working environment for all”.

During the session, ISSA President Joachim Breuer highlighted the rapidity of change across the world and welcomed partners using Vision Zero as part of their strategic frameworks.

A presentation then asked: ‘How are you going to get to zero?’ before listing the following three ways:

  1. By doing the same things you are doing now – only better.
  2. By doing something different.
  3. All of the above.

It also heard from guest speakers from around the world, with Melanie Brinkmann, a professor of virology at a German university, TU Braunschweig, highlighting the Covid-zero strategies pursued by some countries as an illustration of Vision Zero in practice.

Meanwhile, Roy Slack, director of Cementation Americas, a mine contractor which was the Gold Winner of Safest Employer in Canada in 2019, summed up the technical session by saying: “The goal of zero harm is the only goal that makes sense.”

Issue of how to get people to ‘adhere to the rules’

Vision Zero, however, does recognise that “there is no way to completely eliminate accidents”, adding that “there are certain plans, preparations, and actions that can be taken to reduce them”.

And solicitor Ms Kidd added: “It’s all to do with compliance. The problem is getting people to adhere to the rules.

“Yes, accidents at work generally can be prevented, but the majority of them are human error or people trying to do either too much in a short space of time or get things done quicker than they should do. Some employers unfortunately have an unrealistic expectation about how quickly things should be done.

“To prevent accidents, employers have got to give their staff the ability to do things properly. If you have a risk assessment and a procedure for how something should be done, you have to give staff the time to allow them to do that and also enforce safety procedures.

“A lot of employers unfortunately are happy to talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk on that front which is a problem.”

Vision Zero hopes seven ‘golden rules’ will help reduce number injured at work

Vision Zero, meanwhile, is underpinned by seven ‘golden rules’, easy-to-use guides and training programmes that were developed by the ISSA.

The seven ‘golden rules’ are:

  1. Take leadership – demonstrate commitment
  2. Identify hazards – control risks
  3. Define targets – develop programmes
  4. Ensure a safe and healthy system – be well-organised
  5. Ensure safety and health in machines, equipment and workplaces
  6. Improve qualifications – develop competence
  7. Invest in people – motivate by participation

To see the full guide click here >> 

Accident at work statistics paint stark picture in UK

The 15,000 supporters of Vision Zero are spread across the world, but while the strategy has a broader global focus, the UK is also represented by numerous businesses, authorities and bodies, including the Prison Service, Network Rail and the British Occupational Hygiene Society.

And the latest accident at work statistics show why the UK should embrace the ‘prevention culture’.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) in the UK state employers must report injuries to workers and each year the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes accident at work statistics.

The HSE also gains insights by analysing the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which is run by the Office for National Statistics to gain a view on accidents at work based on individuals’ perceptions.

Accident at work statistics from the 2019/20 report:

  • 65,427 injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR regulations.
  • However, 693,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey – 168,000 of which had over seven days absence.
  • The LFS showed that 29% of accidents at work were slips, trips or falls, 19% handling, lifting or carrying, 11% struck by a moving object, and 8% were falls from a height.
  • 111 workers were killed at work.

Of the 65,427 reported non-fatal injuries:

  • Type of industry: 11,976 were in health and social work; 11,245 in manufacturing; 5,010 in warehouses; 4,526 in construction; 1,598 in waste collection and related services; 1,331 in postal and courier activities; and 697 in agriculture.
  • Nature of injury: 36,906 of those injured at work suffered a fracture, sprain or strain; 6,375 suffered lacerations or open wounds; 1,679 suffered burns; 686 workers suffered a loss of consciousness; 562 needed a limb amputation; 125 resulted in loss or reduction of sight; while there were 32 ‘poisonings or gassings’.

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