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Shifting safe reports

Author : Clive James

30 November 2011

Clive James

Clive James looks at the changes to the RIDDOR process and what they mean for businesses

From April next year, the HSE will change the way employers have to report employee injuries in the workplace under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, commonly known as RIDDOR. They will no longer have to report over three day employee injuries to the authorities, instead the HSE has recommend an extension to the reporting threshold to seven days.

The extension was first recommended by Lord Young is his report Common Sense, Common Safety, published last year. The reasoning behind the proposed changes is that figures from over three day and over seven day injuries are fundamentally very similar – so whilst the move is expected to produce a reduction in reported injuries in the workplace, it is not likely to be a significant drop.

The aim of RIDDOR is to monitor health and safety in the workplace, making sure working environments are protected and that injury or disease as a result of working practice is kept to a minimum. By tracking these practices, the government is able to identify what the major issues are and tackle them accordingly.

Issues with RIDDOR

The proposed changes to the RIDDOR process, while understandable, could cause some employers to think that accidents causing people to be off work for less than seven days are not serious. This is not the case – employee absence caused by any injury should be taken seriously – especially as health and safety standards might already be slipping as companies try to cut costs. For example, deaths in the workplace in 2010/11 rose to 171, following a record low the previous year and over five million working days were lost to injury. This should be a reminder for businesses to continually review their health and safety procedures - and that the reporting of injuries plays an important part in this. After all, complacency is not a valid reason for failing to meet regulation.

What many have failed to realise throughout this review of the process is that far too many employers and employees have little knowledge, if any, of what RIDDOR is. Businesses are already sceptical about the world of health and safety, and what they are at a duty to report, with significant confusion about what RIDDOR stands for and how it should be implemented correctly.

Incidents such as bruises and burns may not need to be reported if they are unlikely to affect an employee’s work. However, there is a substantial list of injuries that need to be addressed such as broken limbs, chemical burns, electric shocks, skin diseases and infections. In addition, there are other areas that are included in the reporting process. For example, if an employee has been admitted to hospital for more than 24 hours or even dangerous incidents where no employee injury occurred, that will still need to be reported to the HSE.

Employers should take these changes as an opportunity to make sure they understand the process, but also to educate their workforce on what is required of them, to ensure they are always compliant.

There is a wealth of resources available to offer businesses some guidance, such as the detailed instruction on the HSE website that helps organisations to comply with RIDDOR reporting. This includes an online form, where you can report the details of specific incidents such as injuries, diseases or dangerous occurrences that can be submitted to the HSE.

To bring some additional clarity to the RIDDOR process, businesses, both large and small, can undertake a basic health and safety course to help define the reporting process so it can be communicated clearly to fellow employees.

Looking to the future

While it is likely that in the first year we’ll see a fall in the number of reportable accidents, we shouldn’t assume that this will be due to increased safety, but rather the goal posts being moved. So it’s good to hear that a review of the change will be held after three years to measure the impact, positive or negative, and make further improvements.

The key to the success of these changes will lie in establishing a clear understanding of the RIDDOR process, to ensure employees are aware of what they need to report and how to go about doing it.

Clive James is Training Development Manager at St John Ambulance

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