The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) unveiled a new health and safety strategy in June, with a call for employers to engage more with health and safety issues and stop seeing it as something trivial or only for ‘jobsworths’.
In a poll of more than 1,000 workers and 200 business leaders to coincide with the launch of the strategy, it found that most people seriously underestimated the scale of injuries and deaths in UK workplaces each year.
On average, employees thought that 3,000 people were killed or seriously injured at work last year, but the actual number was 137,000 – more than 45 times higher, the executive said.
Too often, health and safety was seen as trivial or the preserve of ‘jobsworths’, rather than as a means to preventing tragedy.
One-third of the staff polled wrongly thought that HSE banned wearing flip-flops at work or children playing with conkers, it said.
As part of its new strategy, called Be Part of the Solution, the HSE has called on senior managers to sign a pledge to improve health and safety standards.
More positively, it also found that nearly nine out of 10 of the business leaders polled agreed that people were their most important asset, with two-thirds of employees believing good health and safety practices made them feel valued as well as being important for preventing accidents.
HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “HSE is not, and never will be, ‘the fun police.’ Our new strategy shows the way towards a commonsense attitude to health and safety.
“We are calling on employers and business owners to take the lead themselves in preventing the thousands of deaths every year which are caused by work – it is their moral and legal duty and it is good for the business.”
The new strategy was welcomed by organisations such as the TUC and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
In its response, RoSPA welcomed a commitment by the HSE to take a “hands-off” approach to well-managed businesses with lower risk profiles and the continued promotion of the senior management role in leading health and safety.
The TUC welcomed a move by the HSE to make all its publications available to download free online.