Are UK employers neglecting worker safety?

UK Solicitors call for greater accountability for employers who fail to report injuries caused by accidents at work

The latest annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 581,000 people sustained a non-fatal injury at work during 2018/19 and that this resulted in an estimated 4.7 million lost working days in that period. Of those injured in an incident at work, 138,000 people were off work for at least seven days as a result of their injury. These figures are taken from self-reported injuries by employees via the Labour Force Survey.

Employers are legally obliged to report certain injuries that occur in the workplace (including those where the injury keeps an employee from working for seven days or more), accidents or near misses under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), but in the same time period, only 69,208 such reports were submitted. This means that potentially around 50% of significant injuries that were sustained at work may have gone unreported by the employers responsible for safeguarding their workforce and ensuring that the company’s health and safety processes are compliant with the latest regulations.

Hampson Hughes Solicitors, who recently successfully represented a woman who had a serious fall at work, believe that many employers are simply not taking the safety and welfare of staff seriously enough.

Head of Personal Injury at Hampson Hughes Solicitors, Tracy Bond, said, “I think that these latest figures are very worrying, not only because the number of accidents at work every year are still extremely high, but also because it seems that not all employers are properly reporting all of the incidents that they are required to by law, which smacks of complacency to me. Unfortunately, I speak to clients every day who have been avoidably injured at work, sometimes seriously, due to their employer’s negligence, and we often see a blatant disregard for the safety and wellbeing of employees in workplaces across the country.”

In the recent case, which was won by Hampson Hughes, a 56-year-old woman, who worked in a well-known supermarket chain café in London, was awarded £17,000 in compensation after she slipped at work on water on the floor that had seeped from leaking bin bags left by cleaning staff. Her fall resulted in a compound arm fracture and ongoing damage that has left indefinite pain at the site of the injury and means she is reliant on painkillers. Her employer admitted liability for the accident.

Bond commented, “Sadly, this case is typical of many that we see. Our client was simply carrying out her everyday duties at work but because her employer didn’t take the proper measures to protect their workers, she has been injured, potentially permanently, as a result. We’re very pleased that our client was able to get a measure of justice with the compensation awarded, but it doesn’t change the pain and distress that this accident has caused. Nobody wins in situations like this, which is why we’re calling for greater accountability for employers when it comes to worker safety and the accurate reporting of injuries so that lessons can be learned. We would like to see the next annual figures show no such discrepancies again.”

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