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Is training money well spent when it comes to workplace accidents?

The number of fatal injuries to workers in Great Britain has remained relatively static over the last decade, with an average of around 140 deaths per year.

According to the latest HSE Statistics published in November 2022, a total of 123 workers were killed in work-related accidents in Great Britain in 2021/22, a decrease of 22 fatalities from the previous year (a reduction thought to reflect the Government and Industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic). In the same period, a further 80 members of the public were killed as a result of work-related accidents.

If we dig a little deeper and examine the fatal injury rate across all industries, the data reveals that the waste and recycling sector experiences the second highest rate behind agriculture, forestry and fishing. The fatal injury rate is a calculation expressed in terms of the number of fatalities per 100,000 workers employed, and unlike reporting fatality numbers alone, it allows industry comparisons to be made, regardless of the size and number of workers employed in an industry. The waste and recycling sector’s rate over the last five-year period, is eleven times higher than the average across all other industries.

However, we need to just accept that some jobs are hazardous, right? Wrong! Some of the most dangerous jobs in the world including pilots, firefighters, offshore wind turbine technicians and oil platform workers, experience some of the best safety records. In fact, data indicates that it is those jobs that are perceived to carry low to medium risk, that experiences limited training, supervision and poor working conditions, that pose the greater threat to workers. In contrast, some of the most dangerous industries in the world know their work carries a high potential for fatality and therefore nothing is left to chance. They respond by investing in technology and innovative training solutions to manage the risk within their industry. For example, virtual reality technology has been used to allow dangerous or high-stress situations to be practiced, corrective manoeuvres and actions to be rehearsed, all without risk to life.

Naturally businesses are reluctant to put a value on a single life lost at work but it is important exercise when we are demonstrating the value that employee training provides. The HSE estimated in 2020 that a single workplace fatality has an average cost of £ 1,884,000. A figure that would dwarf most large companies’ entire annual training budgets. So is fair to say that we would rather incur the cost of training annually across a business rather than run the risk of killing or seriously injuring someone because of our business activities. Furthermore, if we were to factor in the uninsurable indirect costs including investigations, replacing employees, recovering lost time, increased business insurance premiums, fines, damage to business reputation, compensation claims, lost orders and contracts, it’s easy to see how costs quickly build up and such an incident, could ultimately force an organisation out of business. So, it is fair to conclude that not only is training, money well spent, but also that it is fundamental to reducing the likelihood of a serious workplace incident.

Fatalities thankfully are an uncommon occurrence however, accidents at work are not. Just one basic accident in the workplace could easily cost a business five figures. Again, training is our first line of defense against workplace incidents but it also costs to train people properly. However, the cost of a workplace accident is, and always will be, much higher than the costs associated with proper employee training. Furthermore, that training is very thing that is going to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the likelihood of that potential workplace incident.



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