Employers must keep staff safe from Covid-19 but not forget ‘traditional’ workplace risks and those associated with working from home, warn safety experts.
The charity Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) urged businesses to prepare for the different vulnerabilities staff will face going back to work but not to lose sight of the already known workplace dangers.
The comments come as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) published its national summary of 2019/2020 UK fatal injuries in the workplace July 1.
RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Policy Advisor Dr Karen McDonnell said: “Every death in the workplace is preventable and the impact of loss lasts generations causing trauma to each person, family and community.”
The provisional figures published by the HSE show 147 people lost their lives at work in 2019, a percentage increase of 3.5% on 2018 and 7.3% on 2017. A figure that has remained largely static for over 10-years.
Dr McDonnell explained employers will need a powerful network of support to help forecast what new challenges are coming down the line and recommended that businesses reviewing COVID-19 risks also looked at personalised campaigns to reduce overall risk and harm.
Dr McDonnell said: “Traditional considerations like ‘lone working’ will need to be considered along with new risks like employee commuter habits due to the increased use of bikes and ‘shielding’ staff who have underlying health conditions.
“Making time for conversations with employees, particularly those working from home will be vital to avoid depleted mental health caused by the new stresses of isolation.
“Firms must look through different lenses to identify the new competencies workers and especially managers will need to navigate the workplace.”
Global safety specialist the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) head of policy and regulatory engagement Mr Richard Jones commented: “Employers need to provide effective risk controls and ensure all workers are well trained, supervised and equipped for the role they undertake.”
Annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showed that falls from height were the leading cause of fatal accident in 2018-2019 with 40 fatal injuries to workers. This compared to 35 in 2017/18.
Mr. Jones advised employers to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 but be vigilant to avoid any other occupational disease where he said the total annual death toll is around 13,000.
IOSH launched its Returning Safely campaign to provide information on safe workplaces, safe people, safe systems and safe equipment during COVID-19.
Details on health and safety guidance are at www.rospa.com, www.iosh.com and www.hse.gov.uk