Although the UK is one of the safest places in the world to work, more must be done to prevent avoidable workplace injuries.
This is the view of the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which suggests in a new report measures such as:
- New protections for whistleblowers
- More funding for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
- Making sure UK laws continue meeting EU standards
- A greater role for Trade Unions
The IPPR report has been backed by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), which includes some of our Personal Injury Solicitors among its members, and was published ahead of Injury Prevention Week.
This national campaign is calling for the law to be reformed so it works better for injured people, while acknowledging that, of course, the ultimate goal is to stop people being needlessly injured completely.
According to the HSE, 581,000 working people in Great Britain sustained an injury at work in 2018-19, and our Personal Injury Solicitors who specialise in Accident at Work Claims believe many of these incidents could and should have been avoided.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Workplace Injuries?
A Whistleblower Guarantee
The IPPR says more must be done to give people the confidence to speak out against their employer if they aren’t taking health and safety seriously. This could include:
- Giving whistleblowers access to Legal Aid if they want to fight an unfair dismissal
- Providing emergency financial support if a person leaves their job because of whistleblowing
- Giving whistleblowers access to the best workplace counselling
More Scrutiny of Future Health and Safety Law Changes
Health and safety laws in the UK may diverge from those in the EU post-Brexit, so the IPPR wants any departures from EU law to be independently monitored, perhaps by the House of Lords. This, it said, would lead to an informed discussion about worker protections after Brexit, and put the Government under pressure to stop UK standards falling behind those in the EU.
Trade Unions to be Promoted and Empowered
The IPPR believes there’s “overwhelming evidence” that workplace unions have a positive effect on preventing injury and ill health, and says they’ve played a big role in enabling workers to return to work safely during the Coronavirus pandemic.
So it believes employers should be actively encouraged to engage with Trade Unions as a “constructive partner”, and that the Government should “promote and empower” unions.
More Funding for the HSE
The IPPR says businesses often see the HSE just as an enforcer of health and safety regulations, rather than a source of advice and guidance. But the report states that if the HSE got more funding, it could reopen services such as advisory hotlines, which may help improve its relationship with employers.
Businesses Should Publish Covid Risk Assessments
Companies aren’t currently obliged to publish Covid risk assessments, but the IPPR thinks making them mandatory for firms that employ 50 or more people would encourage them to take the process more seriously.
More Support to Help Small Businesses Become Covid-Secure
The IPPR has proposed a grant scheme run by local councils to help small businesses make their premises Covid-secure, as many can’t afford the upfront cost of responding to the guidance.
Increase Statutory Sick Pay So Employees Can Self-Isolate
Many people who should be self-isolating are still going to work and potentially putting their colleagues at risk because of financial worries. The IPPR has suggested increasing statutory sick pay, so people
don’t have to choose between financial hardship and doing their bit to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Mike Benner, Chief Executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, believes this “important research report must now be the catalyst for action”.
“Needless injury can shatter the lives of individuals and has a direct impact on society” he said. “The time to take injury prevention seriously is long overdue.”
While many businesses are currently focused on making their premises Covid-secure, it’s important that other hazards and processes that have put workplace health and safety at risk for years don’t get overlooked.
Preventing injuries at work and making sure the law works for people who are injured are both crucial in making workplaces much safer and stopping people’s lives being needlessly turned upside down.
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