Death, illness, suicide: The facts

Chris Ramshaw is a Director of PEIMF member Hazardous Area Technical Training (HATT) and he offers us a salutary message.

The latest HSE fatality statistics show that 147 workers lost their lives in safety related incidents in 2018/19. This is an increase of 6 people from the previous year, with an annual average for the last 5 years of many. While this still represents 142 tragedies, this is a massive reduction from an average of around 500 in the early 80’s.

Average deaths per 100,000 workers has reduced from 2 to 0.6 (compared for example to France of 3.7 per 100,000).

However, it has been estimated that for every 1 person dying from a safety-related incident, around 99 others die as result of health related illnesses associated with their work.

No time to lose

The Institute for Occupations Safety and Health (IOSH) recently launched their ‘No time to lose’ campaign focusing on occupational cancers. They reported that approximately 750,000 people die every year as a result of cancers contracted directly as result of employment.

I have started challenging new employees.

  • I will not bother you about wearing PPE.
  • I will never ask you to wear a face mask or gloves.
  • I will not challenge you on wearing glasses.

I can do this OR you can have four extra years of life with your family, see your grandchildren grow and enjoy your time at the end of your hard worked career when you have earned the right.

What would you choose….?

Take it seriously

Now obviously I can’t guarantee anyone any extra time, but I do know that if you don’t wear PPE and you don’t take occupational health seriously you will affect the quality of your life in the long run. A recent HSE report found that 12,000 deaths a year can be attributed to lung disease. If this were deaths on site this would be headline news.

One of the biggest issues is that people don’t catch COPD or lung disease overnight!

And it can be very difficult to convince young workers to be vigilant with things like PPE. However ask those same workers in 30 years’ time, and they will probably say they wish they could go back and tell their younger self not to be such an idiot and wear the mask.

We’ve had “The Act” for 44 years now and have developed a mature safety industry. Workplace deaths have plateaued around 140 and the industry has now started to turn to the Health in Health and Safety. The government recently advised that along with being a legal requirement to offer first aid for physical injuries, companies will soon be required to offer mental first aid as well. Mental health has been estimated to cost the UK economy over 18 million lost days each year and with the cost of presenteeism (employees who are in work everyday suffering with health issues) costing 2.5 times as much as absenteeism.

A recent study by Rubberbond found that between 2011 and 2015 over 1,400 construction workers committed suicide (now the biggest killer of men in their forties). In fact construction workers are 1.6 times more likely to complete suicide than the national average.

A huge amount has been done over the last few years to try and break down stereotypes around men having to be strong and encouraging men and their colleagues to open up more, with sentiments like “It’s ok to be not ok.” Organisations like Mates in Mind are attempting to break down those barriers which have traditionally stopped men from seeking the help.

A recent delegate on one of my SPA courses told me that it is ‘fashionable’ to have mental health issues nowadays. Whilst I disagreed with the word fashionable, what he meant was that people are more aware of these things and it’s something companies are more engaged with, particularly considering different expectations of younger employees.

Suicide concerns

Health and Safety will only grow as an essential part business. I read on Linkedin, something that really struck me; Health and safety shouldn’t be a ‘priority’, because priorities change. Health and safety should be a ‘Value’; something which the company is fundamentally built on. Good health and safety is critical to the success of any organisation, and without it you are wasting money and risking everybody’s future health.

Death, illness, suicide: The facts
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