Workplace injuries – up or down?
The HSE have published their latest statistics today and they show just how hard it is to make comparisons now that the HSE has changed the way that injuries are reported. Over three day injuries have been replaced with over seven day injuries.
The HSE is claiming that workplace major injuries hit an all time low for 2012/13, yet the statistics show that the number of days lost through workplace injury which is up from 4.3 million to 5.2 million, which implies that the number of people injured is actually going up. So which is correct?
Unions have always relied on HSE statistics to give a reasonable picture of the state of health and safety in the UK. In fact the HSE statistics come from a number of sources. The most accurate is probably the Labour Force Survey, which involves asking people. They also use doctor’s reporting schemes, the number of people who claim Industrial Injuries benefit, and RIDDOR.
For injuries, RIDDOR has always been the most important comparison despite the level of under-reporting by employers. Now that RIDDOR has been changed (twice), it is almost impossible for anyone to use the HSE statistics to measure accurately what is happening to workplace injuries. Are they going down, as one set of the HSE statistics claim or going up as indicated in another part of the statistics?
It would also be good to know how much under-reporting has changed as a result of the introduction of Fee for Intervention which, coupled with the ban on pro-active inspections in many workplaces, may mean that employers are far less likely to report an injury. But because the whole reporting system has changed that is almost impossible to know.
What that means is that it is almost impossible to prove what we all suspect which is that the Government’s policies over the past three years have driven up the number of injuries (occupational diseases take a bit longer before they show). The changes to inspections, coupled with some of the deregulation measures and removal of guidance are bound to have an effect on what employers do. However because the Government have also changed the way that injuries are reported we will never be able to show exactly what the effect is.
HSE statistics 2012/12 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/index.htm