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Major injuries in the workplace reduced

Article Date: 2013-11-27

Major injuries in the workplace on the decrease

By Mary Clark, CEO, Cognisco

Provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released in October 2013 showed a significant drop in the number of employees killed or seriously injured at work in the past year. An 11% drop in major injuries was reported compared with 2011/12 and the number of people killed at work fell to 148 in 2012/13 from 171 in the previous year. All of which shows an improving trend. But does it tell us the full story?

The study found that 19,707 major injuries – such as amputations, fractures and burns –were reported in 2012/13 compared with 22,094 in 2011/12. This is the lowest amount of work-related injuries since records began in 1995. According to the HSE Chair Judith Hackitt, these improved figures can be attributed to the commitment from Britain’s workplaces on improving safety for their employees. 

In spite of this good news, major and minor incidences and accidents are still happening too frequently. With an estimated three million working days lost due to injuries at work and slips and trips making up more than half of all reported major injuries, how do we correct ^unsafe^ behaviour?

We all know that health and safety in the workplace is paramount, especially in industries where the potential dangers are high, such as the utilities or transport sector, but it is still a challenge for companies to get it right. A cross-industry report from industry analyst firm IDC entitled “Counting the Cost of Employee Misunderstanding” revealed that one in four employees do not understand certain aspects of their job role and major knowledge gaps remain unaddressed in many organisations. This is in spite of investment in training. 

In many instances human behaviour is a contributory factor to the injuries and employees misunderstanding their roles or making critical mistakes at work can not only result in injuries, absenteeism but in some cases millions of pounds worth of damages in terms of litigation and in the worst case scenario, loss of life.  

In industries where health and safety is a big concern, providing employees with situational judgement assessments that correlate understanding and confidence can help to prevent injury and even death, caused by human error and importantly, evidence fitness to practice and compliance. 

We work with many leading rail companies both in the UK and internationally to ensure their staff are competent and safe when performing their roles. All rail companies today are required to have formal competence management systems in place to maintain and assess the competence of operators carrying out safety critical work.

For Network Rail for example, we have introduced a formal competency management system to assess the competence of over 10,500 operators responsible for safety critical work and to ensure front line workforces are monitored and assessed as well as national delivery and graduate staff.

Britain’s workplaces could be far safer places if more companies revaluated their training and assessment programmes to improve the competence and confidence of their employees.   

With regular situational judgement assessments that map employee competence, confidence, engagement and behaviour companies find out what their staff truly know, how they work and the decisions they are likely to make on the job. This knowledge could be the key to preventing errors and misunderstanding that could lead to incidences and injuries. 

There is a need to develop a long-term Safety Culture Strategy, recognising that most accidents are caused by unsafe acts, and that influencing staff behaviour and attitudes is the way to reduce accidents further.

Fish Friers