Between the Lines: Playing it safe in the workplace

Recent figures showing a rise in workplace fatalities in the UK points to one thing – employers need to do their utmost to ensure that people who work for a living don’t have to die for it.
Tom Morton, CEO, Safe Shores Monitoring. Picture: ContributedTom Morton, CEO, Safe Shores Monitoring. Picture: Contributed
Tom Morton, CEO, Safe Shores Monitoring. Picture: Contributed

Agriculture was the biggest killer with 32 people in the UK dying as they worked the land last year, according to the report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Deaths on construction sites, in factories and waste plants highlight that environments with moving machinery, vehicles and heights have dangers that must be mitigated.

The HSE report comes as a government consultation on a rising tide of violence against workers in the retail sector comes to a close. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) spearheaded a response which said there were almost 10,000 incidents of violence in convenience stores in the past 12 months. The situation for retail workers is worsening as tough trading conditions means there are more people on their own and vulnerable to attack.

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Thankfully workplace fatalities are rare. But violent incidents which employers were required to report to HSE by law reached nearly 5,000 in 2017/18 – 7 per cent of the total. And this was just the severe cases – thousands more incidents of threats and assaults take place every day which go unreported in official figures.

Recently HSE took action to support local authorities that are at the front line of enforcing health and safety rules on a range of business in retail, consumer services, entertainment and warehousing/supply chain sectors. These businesses account for two thirds of all business premises and employ around half of the UK workforce. Failures in the management of occupational health and safety in local authority-enforced business sectors result in more than 100,000 new cases of ill health, 5,000 major injuries and the deaths of around ten workers each year, HSE said. Much of this harm is because workers are not provided with reasonable workplace protection.

Our business has seen a rise in demand for its sensor-based emergency response systems, which offer SOS “panic” buttons, in the retail sector and others where remote working, like healthcare, is an issue. GPS-enabled emergency response technology is one prong in the fight to ensure workers enjoy more safety and security.

Retailers have called on government to legislate to ensure tougher sentences for those who attack shop workers and a full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence. The trick for employers is looking at risk in all its facets and ensuring that the people who deal with those risks are trained and aware. Regular audits of personal protective equipment and asset integrity are basic requirements. So is a commitment to ensuring that everyone gets home safe.

- Tom Morton, CEO, Safe Shores Monitoring