Titanic Changes within the Health and Safety Industry in the UK
The centenary of the sinking of the Titanic gained a lot of publicity and a fair amount of reminiscences. Among some of the more interesting facts to come to light were those relating to the workers on the liner. In those days drowning on work’s time was a sack-able offence and your family were more likely to get a bill for your uniform than compensation. Back then, health and safety wasn’t quite what it is today.
One hundred years later and we’ve plenty of red tape and pen pushers to keep us safe at work, a little too much according to the government. Since last year a range of reforms have been contemplated and implemented to cut back on unnecessary and complex safety laws in order to help business to grow. Workers, managers and business owners in Britain’s most dangerous industries, however, may do well to consider what exactly the health and safety laws have done for us, and what the implications of cutting them could be. The latest Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) full year figures for workplace deaths and injuries were published just after the government relaxed the red tap a little more. Here are some of the facts from those figures.
The industry with the highest rate of fatalities per hundred thousand people has traditionally been the farming industry and it still is. Last year a total of thirty four workers were killed in farming. This number increases by eight when you take into account members of public killed as a result of farming or forestry operations. Death by agriculture is also one of the most static in terms of yearly figures, with reductions in the rate and number of victims over the years fairly rare. Despite this, in the last thirty years the number has slowly reduced by thirty per cent.
The manufacturing industry has also seen an overall decline in the number of fatalities in the last thirty years, by a healthy twenty five per cent. In the latest figures twenty seven fatalities occurred in the industry. Manufacturing in the UK accounts for only ten per cent of the workforce but the number of deaths accounts for nearly twenty seven per cent of the total deaths in the work place.
The construction industry is considered the most dangerous in the UK. The figures report on fifty deaths in the 2010/11 year; although accounting for the highest number of deaths in the top three most dangerous industries, this equals a lower rate per hundred thousand than in farming. The good news for those in the construction industry, if not in the red tape cutting one, is that this industry has seen a reduction of over two thirds in the last thirty years in the number of deaths at work.
The (soon to be) missing link
In total in the 2010/11 period there were 171 fatalities
at work, and the three industries above accounted for almost seventy per cent of these. The overall trend is downwards and as the improvements in the last thirty years in the industries demonstrate, greater regulation and huge drops in fatality seem to have something of a link. Occasional rises on the year on year figures do occur. Speaking in 2007 when an eleven per cent rise on the previous year’s figure, Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, said that any rise was unacceptable, regardless of overall downwards trends.
Red tape replacements
Since 2007 it’s been all change on the government front and this Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister stated that the proposed changes to the regulations will bring back “common sense” to health and safety. The changes focus on reporting times for both “dangerous occurrences” and minor injuries. In the case of the former, reporting is extended to seven days and in the latter injuries need only be reported if they result in an employee absence of more than seven days. This may seem like common sense, but in industries such as construction, overlooking small safety glitches may lead to major ones in the longer term. There may be less red tape on Britain’s construction sites and farms but we may see a rise in red bandages.
With changes to Health and Safety regulations those working in Britain’s most dangerous industries may need to pay closer attention to training and procedures. From SMSTS courses to First aid and general health and safety training businesses will need to ensure their employees are more conscious than ever of their safety responsibilities.