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Concerns over new workplace fatality figures

04 September 2018

James Marston, learning and development manager at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), takes a look at the latest statistics for workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain

If you have recently visited the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/), you will be aware that the Workplace Fatal Injuries in Great Britain for 2017/8 statistics is available. The headline figure stated 144 people lost their lives at work in 2017/18. The report produced annually calculates fatal injuries reported to enforcing authorities in the period to both workers and members of the public.

The report thankfully clearly states that deaths are a rare occurrence although zero deaths at work are the clear target. Falls from height remain top of the kinds of accident reported with moving vehicles and objects second and third. In the service sector, five deaths were reported of which cleaning represents a small percentage.

UK business has made considerable progress in the long term. The 2017/18 number compares with 274 deaths twenty years ago (1997/98) and 495 deaths in 1981 and compared with Europe the UK has consistently one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU which is good news.

One concerning statistic indicated that 55 deaths out of the 144 total were workers aged 60 years and above, yet the group only represents 10% of the workforce. The report states that deaths in this age group have been steadily increasing although this year has seen a significant increase. This suggests the rate of fatal injury increases with age which business would do well to note and revisit the potential hazards for workers over 60 years.

Like most other sectors cleaning has an ageing workforce. This is partly due to a rising pensionable age, increasing elderly population and living longer. Older workers bring with them a depth of skills and knowledge to the workplace. 

Assuming an older worker cannot cope with the physical demands of their job or struggle to assimilate new information is just not accurate. Studies show that young versus older workers had little difference in terms of output or productivity until much later in life.

Workers across the older generations are growing. Employers who embrace this trend will reap the benefits as long as they assess their needs and adapt their practices through effective risk assessment, communication with employees and regular reviews to eliminate or reduce risks. In doing so, we can reverse this worrying trend for later life workers and make the workplace safer for all.

 
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