The past year has again been something of a mixed bag for occupational Health & Safety risk management. We take a look back at some of the incidents and stats that have shaped 2018.
Injury and Fatality Figures
The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual statistics showed a continued general downward trend in the number of major injuries at work as well as cases of work related ill-health. In 2017/18 in Great Britain there were:
- 4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
- 6 million non-fatal worker injuries
- 555,000 injuries at work.
However, there were still 144 people killed at work in the year to 31 March 2018. This was an increase of nine on the previous year. This translates to a fatal injury rate of 0.45 per 100,000 workers which is similar to the previous year. However, it is now clear that the years of falling numbers and rates of fatal injuries have flattened – with an annual average of 141 since 2013/14.
Construction accounted for most fatalities (38) – its annual average rate over the past five years is four times higher than the all-industry rate. The fatal injury rate in agriculture (29) is the highest of all the main industry sectors, and 18 times higher than the all-industry rate – while waste and recycling (12) has a rate that is 16 times as high.
The three most common causes of fatal injuries continued to be:
- falls from height (35)
- struck by a moving vehicle (26)
- struck by a moving object (23).
Interestingly, workers aged 60 or over accounted for 40% of the deaths during the year but just 10% of the workforce.
The year was again dominated by Brexit.
The Health & Safety (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 will ensure that EU-derived health and safety protections will continue to be available in domestic law after the UK has left the EU.
The government did issue advice on the implications of a no-deal Brexit in the form of 25 “technical notes”, three of which are significant for health and safety, namely on workplace rights, products and chemicals.
A hospice was handed a huge £250k fine for fire safety breaches – St Michael’s Hospice Hastings and Rother was prosecuted in relation to offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The judge commented that a mock evacuation and basic training would have helped identify deficiencies. The case showed how important it is not only to have risk assessments and procedures in place but also to practice fire evacuation drills and make sure staff are trained in those procedures.
Recognition of Mental Health
The HSE is now looking at how working environments can trigger or even exacerbate existing mental health issues such as stress, and what organisations can do to prevent this.
Expected revisions to HSE guidance for employers on the assessment and management of work-related mental ill health and to its stress management standards – by March 2019.
The 2016 Sentencing Council guidelines continued to result in significant increases in sentences for health and safety offences. The new guidelines use harm and culpability categories and organisation size to establish starting points and ranges of penalties.
In the last six months, there have been 13 exceptional fines of £1 million or more and a further 12 fines of at least £500,000. The fines amounting to at least £1 million involved:
- BUPA Care Homes, £3m
- DHL Supply Chain and DHL Services, £2m
- Tesco Stores, £1.6m
- Faltec Europe, £1.6m
- Royal Mail Group, £1.6m
- Tuffnells Parcels Express, £1.5m
- Costain, £1.4m
- Galliford Try Building, £1.4m
- Willmott Partnership Homes, £1.25m
- Martin-Baker Aircraft, £1.1m
- Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, £1.05m
- RK Civil Engineers, £1m
- RK District Heating, £1m.
The last six months also saw the courts impose 65 fines of at least £100,000 for Health & Safety at work offences – the previous six months saw 73 fines of £100,000. In the two years and a half years since the introduction of the tougher sentencing guidelines, courts have imposed 346 fines of at least £100,000 – compared with 497 in the previous 10 years.
Manual Handling and MSD
The HSE began its new health at work strategy, notably with revamped advice on manual handling training and musculoskeletal disorders.
The HSE urged employers to think again before investing in “off-the-shelf” manual handling training – commenting it “should become a thing of the past”.
HSE health and work portfolio manager, Geoff Cox, said HSE research showed “simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money. It just doesn’t make any difference”.
Cox said the overall aim for employers should be to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that they should start with reorganising and redesigning working practices. Cox acknowledged there would be “many residual risks” where training is needed but this should “be customised and professionally delivered”. Training should be based on observations of current working practices and ‘informed by the views and experience of the workforce’.
New musculoskeletal disorder advice was issued to help employers decide what type of help they need to tackle the MSD risks in their workplace. The advice gave examples and identifies who may be able to help.
The year also notably saw:
- EU (Withdrawal) Act receive Royal Assent on 26 June 2018 – followed by lengthy passage through the Houses of Parliament – the Act will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 which is the legal basis for giving effect to significant amounts of EU legislation in the UK
- Publication of the final report of the post-Grenfell Tower review of the Building Regulations and fire safety – with the public inquiry into the disaster start in full
- Courts impose 55 immediate and suspended custodial sentences for workplace Health & Safety offences – a total of 135 in the past two years, compared with 186 in the previous 10 years
- Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 and amendments to the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 come into force
- EU General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 came into force – regulating the collection, storage and use of personal data including that relating to worker Health & Safety
- Sentencing Council publish a definitive sentencing guideline for gross negligence manslaughter
- Significant activity around dangerous and hazardous substances – subject of an EU campaign and the annual EU Health & Safety week. In addition, the HSE published a new edition of EH40/2005 which introduces or revises workplace exposure limits for 31 substances.