It can be natural to think about work-related fatalities in terms of accidents and in what we would consider as higher risk jobs – working in construction, for example, handling heavy machinery or working at height all carry a greater risk of accident and therefore unfortunately fatality – but what about those not in those types of role or even industry how do we assess and address the risk here?
Recognising the trends which may impact work-related fatalities
Interestingly the statistics recording workplace fatalities largely follow traditional thinking, categorised either by the type of accident or the type of industry. There are no recorded statistics for fatalities such as suicide as a result of mental health issues caused by the workplace – yet 1 in 6 people are recorded as experiencing mental health problems in the workplace, whilst in 2021 the UK suicide rate was at one of it’s highest rates since 2005.
Thankfully there is work being done to use the statistics to help inform the practices on the ground to encourage greater workplace health and safety, Coroner Kevin McLoughlin said
” A generation ago, we used to think only about the risks to construction workers and people who worked in manufacturing plants. But now, office-based mental health issues are more recognised,’ he says. ‘Employers should be aware of the pressure they may be putting people under by imposing demanding targets on individuals who may be isolated and deprived of the camaraderie of having supportive workmates around them.’
Suicide is something that Kevin has increasingly studied as part of his work and shared that the ability o track and study trends brings hope of improving the situation for example there are statistics which show the areas of the UK where suicide is prevalent and its Kevin’s belief that this can be drilled down into even further to identify the trends and risks within particular workplaces and industries.
What can employers do?
- Review your Health & Safety policies – do they just cover ‘ accidents’ do they need expansion to consider the other areas of your work and workplace which can potentially be harmful to your employees particularly in respect of mental health for example working long hours, working remotely or in isolation or even consistent working under pressure
- Update and Expand your Risk Assessments – your risk assessments should always be up to date and they should always include every area of risk not just the obviously physical risks such as falling or injury whilst lifting heavy objects.
- Mental Health is different to physical health – and you should treat it as such, ensure you have policies (such as wellbeing) which exclusively cover the provision in place to care for and support the mental health needs of your employees and which align with your health and safety responsibilities correctly.
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