The Access Industry Forum, the forum that represents the principal work at height trade associations and federations, is calling for clearer reporting of workplace accidents in a bid to save lives.
As newly released Health & Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show another year of little improvement in workplace falls from height, the Access Industry Forum (AIF) is urging government and business to work together to spearhead action and prevent accidents.
HSE statistics published last week report that over 5,000 people in Great Britain were injured at work last year due to a fall from height. 40 people also lost their lives1. These incidents are required by law to be reported by employers through RIDDOR2, it is known that there is substantial underreporting of non-fatal falls from height for all workers, particularly the self-employed, who were found to report just 12% of workplace incidents3.
In addition to employer reported RIDDOR incidents, the HSE estimates the scale of non-fatal workplace injury using their preferred source, the self-reported Labour Force Survey (LFS). According to the LFS, the number of falls over the last 10 years may be up to 425,0004.
Along with the lives, families and businesses affected by these accidents, up to 992,000 working days were lost through non-fatal falls from height in Great Britain last year alone5.
Not only that, the total cost of non-fatal falls in 2022/23 is estimated to be over £770 million, made up of costs to the employer and the individual, government tax losses and benefit payments6.
These figures have been consistent over recent years, with no signs of improvement.
Research undertaken by the AIF found that limited data collected on the circumstances surrounding accidents, coupled with a problematic reporting system, make it difficult to pinpoint the underlying causes of falls from height and identify whether they are related to issues such as faulty equipment, lack of training, or negligence.
The AIF is renewing its call for a simplified system of reporting to more accurately reflect the cause of workplace accidents so that informed, preventative measures can be implemented to address the cause of fall from height incidents.
Unlike most other types of workplace injuries, the consequences of a fall from height are usually life-changing for the person involved, with many unlikely to return to their previous occupation, as well as having long-term consequences for employers, colleagues and families.
The AIF actively supports the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height, which will bring together MPs and stakeholders from across industry at its next meeting in Westminster in December. They will be discussing how government and business can work together to ensure technological and regulatory progress can be made to make the UK the safest country in the world for those working at height.
Peter Bennett OBE, AIF Chair, said: “This year’s statistics show that there is much work still to be done to ensure those who have to work at height do so in as safe an environment as possible. Very little information is provided on the circumstance around non-fatal and fatal incidents, with current reporting focused on the type of incident as opposed to what caused it in the first place. This needs to change if we are to see a decrease in the number of people who tragically lose their lives while working at height, and those who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height.
“We know that working at height can be dangerous, but we should be able to put appropriate and robust measures in place to make it safer. I look forward to attending the meeting of the APPG in December so we can demonstrate to lawmakers the need for a simplified reporting system and ensure all those working at height go home safely at the end of the day.”
1 RIDDOR – Kind of accident statistic in Great Britain, 2023
2 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations
3 Health & Safety Executive Research Report RR528 An investigation of reporting of workplace accidents under RIDDOR using the Merseyside Accident Information Model, 2007
4 Labour Force Survey
5 Labour Force Survey
6 HSE Costs to Britain Model
Below: A range of work at height activities. Images courtesy of AIF members and subject to copyright.