Britain''s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has proposed changing current health and safety law to require all companies to investigate all reportable work-related accidents, ill health or ''near misses'' which could have resulted in serious injury.
At present, there is no explicit law which requires employers to investigate the causes of workplace incidents, although there are duties under some UK health and safety law which may lead employers to undertake investigations.
Workplace incident in continue to be a cause for concern. HSE said provisional figures for 1999/2000 show that there were 216 work-related deaths and more than 181,000 work-related injuries in Britain''s workplaces.
HSE estimates that if every single reportable incident not currently investigated by employers was investigated and acted upon, it could save the UK up to $1.8 billion per year in preventable incidents, including $600 million to businesses.
"Accidents and ill-health in the workplace take a terrible toll, both in terms of economic cost and human suffering," said Bill Callaghan, Health and Safety Commission chair. "Most work-related accidents and cases of ill-health are preventable. By investigating incidents, identifying the causes and taking effective steps to remove those causes, employers can prevent repeat incidents and cut the human and financial cost dramatically."
The proposals, which would require an amendment to present health and safety law, would require employers in the UK to:
- investigate all reportable incidents to find out how they happened and how they might be prevented in the future;
- keep a record that an investigation has been carried out and that its conclusions have been taken into account in revising the workplace assessment. Such records would be kept for a minimum of three years and could be subject to scrutiny by HSE and its inspectors.
The consultation will also ask whether the proposed duty to investigate should be extended to non-reportable accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences as well.
HSE said it would provide guidance on how to implement an effective investigation process.
"Employers have a duty to their employees to provide a working environment where risks are reduced to their minimum," said Callaghan. "Most responsible employers -- both large and small -- already have a system for investigating health and safety incidents and there can be no excuse from those who refuse to follow their example."
by Virginia Sutcliffe