Reportable Accidents

The HSE has just updated their Accident Book so that it is GDPR compliant. It is, therefore, topical to refresh our minds regarding what data is needed to be collected when people get injured or harmed at work.

The purpose of an Accident Book is:

• because it is a legal requirement for all organisations to record certain types of accidents involving employees, contractors and visitors in the workplace;
• it records all accident information in one place;
• it should be simple, clear and easy to complete for those who fill it in;
• it forms the initial part of any necessary accident investigation that may subsequently need to happen;
• aids management of health and safety at work – preventing further injuries and controlling costs;
• the record forms part of any subsequent legal prosecution or personal injury claim;
• it should comply with current legislation, including RIDDOR, GDPR and HSE standards;

Reporting to the HSE and the recording of accidents are legal requirements regarding any Death, certain Injuries, (occupational) Disease or Dangerous Occurrences – hence the terms RIDDOR, with the final “R” standing for Regulation.

RIDDOR also requires that, since 6 April 2012, you must legally report any work related injury or illness that results in a person being off for more than seven consecutive day, not counting the day of the accident, but including any weekends or other rest days.

Perhaps what is less well known is that, all occupational injuries that result in a worker being away from work, or unable to do their full range of normal duties for more than three consecutive days, should still be recorded as part of your accident data. I term these as “lost time incidents”. Whilst employers normally keep sickness absence records, I strongly suspect that injuries where people are away from work for more than three days but return to work within the seven day self-certified period of absence, do not form part of the accident data, yet such data is a valuable source of information to help improve the management of health and safety. Why? Well, by using this data you should be able to amend, and hopefully improve, your risk assessments. It should also help to identify solutions to potential risks, and thus prevent reoccurrence.

Reportable Diseases

Perhaps what is least understood is that Regulation 8 of RIDDOR requires employers (and self-employed) people to report cases of certain diagnosed reportable diseases which are linked with occupational exposure to specified hazards. The reportable diseases and associated hazards are set out below.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve, which controls sensation and movement in the hand. It is not always caused by work-related factors. Typically, workplace risks associated with this are where the person’s work involves regular use of vibrating tools, e.g. sanders, grinders or chain saws, or, indeed lots of frequent keyboard work.

Cramp of the hand or forearm: Where the person’s work involves prolonged periods of repetitive movement of the fingers, hand or arm. The condition is usually characterised by a person being unable to carry out a sequence of what were previously well co-ordinated movements. Again this too can be due to repetitive keyboard work. One acute incident of cramp which may take place in the course of work is not reportable.

Occupational Dermatitis: Where the person’s work involves significant or regular exposure to a known skin sanitiser or irritant such as a reaction to certain types of soaps or hand cleaners. Construction work, health service work, printing, paint spraying, agriculture, horticulture, cleaning, catering and hairdressing are all associated with occupational dermatitis.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: Where the person’s work involves regular use of percussive or vibrating tools, or holding materials subject to percussive processes, or processes causing vibration. Other names used to describe this include vibration white finger, dead finger, dead hand and white finger.

Occupational Asthma: Where the person’s work involves significant or regular exposure to a known respiratory sensitiser. In particular, this will include any chemical with the warning ‘may cause sensitisation by inhalation’. Known respiratory sensitisers include epoxy resin fumes, solder fume, grain dusts, wood dusts and other substances. Asthma is a common condition in the general population. So if there is good evidence that the condition was pre-existing, and was neither exacerbated nor triggered by exposure at work, the condition is not reportable.

Tendonitis or tenosynovitis: In the hand or forearm, where the person’s work is physically demanding and involves frequent, repetitive movements. Tendonitis means inflammation of a tendon, and tenosynovitis means inflammation of the sheath (synovium) that surrounds a tendon. Workers who undertake physically demanding, repetitive work are at increased risk of developing these conditions, or activities involving constrained postures, or extremes of movement in the hand or wrist.

A reportable disease must be diagnosed by a doctor. Diagnosis includes identifying any new symptoms, or any significant worsening of existing symptoms. For employees, they need to provide the diagnosis in writing to their employer. Doctors are encouraged to use standard wording when describing reportable diseases on written statements they make out for their patients.

The HSE, as well as their enforcement counterparts in local authorities, use the information reported about serious incidents and cases of disease to identify where and how risks arise, and whether they need to be investigated? The information also allows them to target their work, and provide advice on how to prevent work-related deaths, injuries, ill health and accidental loss.

Accident Books and the Data Collected

Since May 2018, Accident Books must now be GDPR compliant with the information stored in compliance with GDPR principles, and your organisation’s data protection policies.

Whilst you do not have to purchase and use the HSE version of he Accident Book (Click here for the link to HSE Publications), you do need to ensure that your records comply with the necessary data you need to record following any form of accident. However, it is what you do with this data next that is so important.

Start building up a picture of where accidents are happening. Is there a certain time of day when more accidents happen? What types of accidents are happening? What are the causation factors, are they mainly down to, e.g. manual handling, or perhaps slips, trips or falls? Are certain groups of workers more prone to accidents, and what activities were they doing at the time? Converting this information into statistical bar charts and pictograms is a great way of visibly identifying key trends.

Ideally this data should be regularly submitted to Senior Management, along with recommendations on how to address future incidents, as all of this information should be able to tell you what you need to be doing differently to address accidents. This invariable means communicating with people on new, or revised safe working practices, and training people in these systems. Sadly, in our experience, employers often only consider whether they should offer staff Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is, in fact, a last resort in the list of risk reduction control measures.

Finally, it is not uncommon for clients to tell me that over the last 12 months or more, they have not had any entries in their Accident Book. My take on this is always the same, which is to say “no you have had accidents; they simply have not been reported.” This is because people either cannot be bothered, or are genuinely concerned about the possible negative repercussions if they report an injury at work. Such perceptions are often not based on fact, so it is important to keep reiterating that all incidents, no matter how minor, need to be reported, as the purpose of recording such data is not to apportion blame, but to better understand what led up the accident or injury, and what could be done to make sure it does not happen again. These messages need to keep being communicated to help reassure people that reporting incidents are important. Then it’s about analysing the data, identifying trends and creating an action plan that will help improve health & safety going forward.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.