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World Day for Health and Safety at Work 2017 – Moving towards a Safer Future

Today is World Day for Health and Safety at Work 2017. It is perhaps not as well-known as International Star Wars Day on May 4 or International Yoga day on June 21 but since 2003 the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has been championing the cause of health and safety at work.

The ILO itself is a tripartite U.N agency that has been in existence since 1919 and works with governments, employers and workers with the goal of setting labour standards and developing policies and programmes promoting decent work.

The World Day for Health and Safety at Work started in 2003 and is intended to be a day to focus world attention on the problem of health and safety at work and the number of people who die from work-related accidents and diseases every year.

Each year, the day has a theme and this year the theme is the need for countries to improve their capacity to collect and utilise occupational safety and health data. The overall goal is to contribute to the UN’s 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development but makes sense even absent that goal because it is hard to fix something if you don’t know if, how and why it is broken.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive requires employers to make a report under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). These mandate that employers must report certain work-related injuries and diseases to the HSE.

In general, RIDDOR only requires that serious injuries be reported and so there is still a gap in the data collection and a lack of knowledge on the part of employers of the obligation to record and report occupational accidents.

It is an unfortunate fact that, even in the UK there a tendency for certain employers to want to sweep occupational accidents under the rug. I have had more than a few clients tell me that their employer offered to ‘take care of them’ in exchange for saying that the accident happened somewhere other than work or flat out threatening to sack them if they tell anyone.

The ILO recommends that each country work towards implementing a National Notification and Recording System, which would allow the provision to governments and organisations like the HSE of comprehensive and reliable data on occupational diseases and accidents and allowing the development of preventative measures.

This will allow these organisations to compile statistics on problem areas and in turn assist in the development of policies, procedures and programmes aimed at improving overall worker safety.

In 2015/16, 621,000 injuries incurred in workplaces in the UK, contributing to 30.4 million working days lost and a cost of £14.1 billion. Only 72,072 were reported under RIDDOR. A more comprehensive system is certainly welcome at this point.