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According to new research by our sister company, WorkNest,…

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Revealed: the common root causes behind ‘wholly avoidable’ workplace accidents

According to new research by our sister company, WorkNest, 200 organisations have faced over £47million in fines since 2005 for workplace accidents judged to be ‘wholly unavoidable’.

The study looked at 200 health and safety prosecutions brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dating back to 2005, spanning ten different sectors to establish common root causes. WorkNest specifically examined the prosecutions with commentary containing phrases such as “wholly unavoidable”, “could have been prevented”, and “entirely preventable”.

In 97 of the 200 cases that were reviewed (48.5%), inspectors stated that the employer had failed to put in place adequate risk control plans and strategies to manage health and safety risks – a fundamental error which resulted in serious injuries and even fatalities.

The fact is, the vast majority of workplace accidents are preventable. These statistics are especially alarming, as in 2022, there is simply no excuse for organisations not to be managing their health and safety risks, and for business owners not to know what is required of them under health and safety law. Still, annual fatal injury statistics continue to remind us that serious incidents can and do occur in all manner of workplaces, and in order to drive down the numbers, business leaders need to know why.

So what health and safety mistakes are employers still making?

Whilst some accidents have multiple contributing factors, the three most common primary root causes of serious safety incidents in the workplace, according to WorkNest’s research was: Lack of planning (48.5%), Failure to risk assess (32.5%) and Lack of machine guarding/ maintenance (8%).

Other underlying failings cited by the HSE included a lack of training (3.5% of cases), poor supervision (1.5% of cases) and poor management systems (1% of cases).

A lack of training is a key mistake

The HSE’s Accident Prevention Advisory Unit has shown that human error is a major contributory cause of 90% of accidents, 70% of which could have been prevented by management action. Enrolling employees in courses such as Health and Safety Essentials and Introduction to Working Safely – as well as immersive training challenges – will help to prevent accidents by ensuring everyone in your organisation is aware of their responsibilities.

Note that training was also identified as a secondary reason behind many of the incidents that formed part of the research, so it’s importance should not be overlooked.

What does this analysis tell us?

Examining the root causes of these cases highlights that even in 2022 – nearly 50 years on from the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act – many organisations are failing to implement even the Plan and Do phases of Plan, Do, Check, Act. These are the basics of good health and safety management, and the fact that some employers are still not taking these steps – and are running the gauntlet for whatever reason – is very concerning.

Aside from the devastating human impact, these oversights are costing employers significantly. In fact, taking into account the fines and legal costs involved, these 200 prosecutions cost employers over £47 million, plus almost £4 million in legal costs.

Often, the rationale for poor practices is “I wasn’t aware”, “I don’t have the time”, “that’s not my job”, “we don’t have the funding” or simply “it will be alright”. When you run a business, time and money is precious, but a lot more time and money will be consumed by a serious incident or fatality – and many organisations have learned the hard way, so invest in good health and safety training practices now.

Not sure your safety training processes are up to scratch?

EssentialSkillz can help your organisation take a proactive approach to health and safety compliance through a comprehensive suite of RoSPA and IIRSM Approved Health and Safety e-Learning courses. From Fire Safety to DSE online training, all of our health and safety courses are fully interactive and provide users with everything they need to stay safe in the workplace. Each and every course is regularly updated to ensure technical accuracy and their alignment with best practice.

Get in touch with us to arrange your 7-Day free trial.

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