Changes to the mandatory reporting system for work related injuries came into force on 1st October. The changes had been the subject of a consultation exercise that ran from August to October last year.
The rules on injury reporting are contained within the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995, which place a legal requirement on employers to report and keep records of certain incidents at work, including fatal accidents or accidents that result in serious injury. Employers are also required to report diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases, and let the authorities know if certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ or near-miss incidents take place.
By reporting these incidents, employers provide enforcing authorities such as the Health and Safety Executive with enough information to identify the risks involved and to decide whether they need to be investigated further.
The main changes to RIDDOR that came into effect on the 1st October are in the following areas:
The changes do not significantly affect reporting requirements relating to fatal accidents, accidents that involve non-workers or accidents that result in a worker being unfit for their usual job for more than seven days.
In addition, there has been no change to how an incident is reported or to the criteria used by enforcing authorities in deciding whether an incident needs further investigation.
Sadly, incidents causing death or serious injury to workers that need to be reported under RIDDOR occur all too frequently in the UK. Such incidents are usually preventable, and need not have occurred if the employer had fulfilled its duty to assess and safeguard against identifiable risks in the workplace.
One area of the body that is particularly vulnerable to injury, particularly when an employee is working with machinery, is the hands and fingers.
In one incident recently reported by the HSE, an employee working on a conveyor belt suffered a serious accident that resulted in the loss of three fingers.
The thirty-year-old was trying to remove some blocked wood when his right hand came into contact with the sprockets and chains that drove the belt, and they severed parts of his middle, ring and little finger.
He needed extensive treatment following the accident, including two operations, physiotherapy and cell generation treatment, and was not fit to return to work for nine months.
The subsequent HSE investigation found that the conveyor did not have adequate guards in place to prevent this type of incident from occurring.
The company that had supplied the conveyor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 for failing to protect people not in its employment. It was fined £6,667 and had to pay £5,715 in costs.
"This incident could have been so easily prevented had the company not failed in their duties to ensure the machinery was safe,” commented HSE inspector Berian Price.
"Sadly, because they didn't do this a man suffered painful, life-changing injuries," he added.
In a separate incident, an agency worker at a firm producing convenience food lost the tips of four fingers on a dicing machine.
He had pushed his fingers through a gap in a chute on the machine in an attempt to clear a jam that had built up. Unfortunately, he did not know that there were rotating blades at the end of the gap, which severed the tips of his fingers.
The HSE investigation discovered a number of safety failings on the part of the company, including a failure to carry out an adequate risk assessment for use of the machine, and failing to follow their own safety procedures for its use.
It was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £9,399 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
"The company fell well short of the expected health and safety standards, which is particularly disappointing given that they would be well aware that their industry has one of the highest incident rates in manufacturing," commented HSE Inspector Tahir Mortuza after the hearing.
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