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Accident reporting needs to change to get numbers down

30 Nov 23 With falls from height continuing to be the biggest cause of industrial injuries, it is time for a new approach to information gathering, the Access Industry Forum says.

Working at height needn't be dangerous
Working at height needn't be dangerous

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) official statistics collate only limited data and can only teach us so much. If it gathered more information, we could learn more and improve workplace safety, it is  argued.

The Access Industry Forum is an alliance of 10 trade bodies related to safe working at height, including the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), the National Access & Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) and the Ladder Association.

As latest HSE statistics show another year of little improvement in workplace falls from height, the Access Industry Forum (AIF) is calling for a new system of reporting accidents to more accurately reflect the cause so that informed, preventative measures can be implemented to address the issues.

AIF chair Peter Bennett said: “This year’s statistics show that there is much work still to be done to ensure those who have to work at height do so in as safe an environment as possible. Very little information is provided on the circumstance around non-fatal and fatal incidents, with current reporting focused on the type of incident as opposed to what caused it in the first place. This needs to change if we are to see a decrease in the number of people who tragically lose their lives while working at height, and those who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height. We know that working at height can be dangerous, but we should be able to put appropriate and robust measures in place to make it safer.”   

HSE statistics published last week report that more than 5,000 people in Great Britain were injured at work last year due to a fall from height, of whom 40 were killed. These incidents are required by law to be reported by employers under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

But, according to the AIF, it is known that there is substantial underreporting of non-fatal falls from height for all workers, particularly the self-employed, who were found to report just 12% of workplace incidents.

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In addition to employer reported RIDDOR incidents, the HSE estimates the scale of non-fatal workplace injury using the self-reported Labour Force Survey (LFS). According to the LFS, the number of falls over the last 10 years may be up to 425,000.

Along with the lives, families and businesses affected by these accidents, up to 992,000 working days were lost through non-fatal falls from height in Great Britain last year alone.

Not only that, the total cost of non-fatal falls in 2022/23 is estimated to be more than £770m, made up of costs to the employer and the individual, government tax losses and benefit payments.

These figures have been consistent over recent years, with no signs of improvement.

AIF research has found that limited data collected on the circumstances surrounding accidents, coupled with a problematic reporting system, make it difficult to pinpoint the underlying causes of falls from height and identify whether they are related to faulty equipment, lack of training, or negligence.

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