LONDON, November 6 /PRNewswire/ -- New research published by the UK's largest trade union, Unite, shows investigation levels into major injuries to workers have declined by 43% between 2001/2 and 2006/7. In 2006/7, the last year when statistics are available, only 10.5% of major injuries reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were investigated.
The research, undertaken by the Centre for Corporate Accountability for Unite, also shows that in the same five year period there has been a 69% reduction in the number of worker 'over-three day' injuries investigated, a 31% decline in the number of 'dangerous occurrences' investigated, and a 68% decline in the number of members of the public injuries investigated.
The issue of investigation levels - the central concern of the report - is crucial, because unless the HSE investigates an incident, it cannot know whether the injury or dangerous occurrence was caused by a health and safety failure. Therefore, a decision not to investigate can result in failures both in relation to prevention and in securing criminal accountability.
Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary, said: This report highlights the need for the government to address the problem accordingly and admit that the HSE needs more money, more resources, and more inspectors. We believe the most fundamental right for workers is that they return home from work to their families, healthy and safe.
The significant reductions in the level of investigations and prosecutions together with less HSE inspectors, goes to the heart of the question of levels of adequate HSE resources.
Unite activists are bearing the strain caused by such low levels of operating inspectors, and they are continually expected to police their own workplaces. However, they are doing a great job, reducing accident rates by half compared to non-unionised workplaces. Unite will continue the campaign to secure new and improved legal rights for safety reps.
The research shows that there were significant variations in investigation levels between sectors. In 2006/7 the level of investigation ranged from 24.5% in the agricultural sector to 5.3% in the services sector. In the construction sector, the sector with the most number of reported deaths, only 14.1% of major injuries were investigated, a reduction from 20% six years earlier
There was also significant variation in different regions. In 2006/7, the level of investigation ranged from 14% in Scotland to 5.3% in London.
Notes to Editors:
1. A full copy of the Unite report can be downloaded from the Unite website, visit: http://www.amicustheunion.org/Default.aspx?page=9530
2. Employers and others have an obligation under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences 1995 (RIDDOR 95) to report certain kinds of injuries and incidents either to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or to local authorities. The analysis in the Unite report only relates to those incidents reported to the HSE - that is to say injuries and dangerous occurrences relating to the construction, manufacturing, agricultural, energy and mining sectors - as well as a certain segment of service sector injuries.
3. The injuries reported to the HSE in fact only represent a proportion of the total number of injuries that actually take place. The HSE acknowledge that 'non-fatal injuries are substantially under-reported,' estimating that 'just under half of all such injuries to employees are actually reported, with the self-employed reporting a much smaller proportion.'
4. The most recent research suggests that 41% of major injuries and 25% of over three day injuries are reported. There is no data on the level of under-reporting of dangerous occurrences and injuries to members of the public. Both are likely to be significantly under-reported, for details visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr528.pdf
5. This under-reporting needs to be kept in mind since it means that the percentage of actual major injuries investigated is around 40% of the level set out in this report (so, rather than 10.5% of major injuries to workers being investigated, only about 4% are actually investigated) and the level of over-three day injuries is 25% of the level set out in this report (so rather than 2%, it would be about 0.5%).
For further information contact Rob Miguel, Unite Health and Safety Officer, on +44(0)7900-804911 or Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite Press Office on +44(0)20-7420-8914 or +44(0)7980-224761.