I’m sure it is with great relief we’ve watched and listened to the news recently telling us that Britain’s economy seems well on the road to recovery. It’s especially heartening for those out of work and seeking employment. However, we need to ensure this good news story does not get tainted by events which are within our control.
When we entered the most recent recession in late 2008 many people expressed concern that workplace injury and fatality rates would go up, largely as a result of companies cutting corners to save costs as times became harder. But those fears did not materialise. Injury and fatality rates have actually continued to improve in spite of recession.
The statistics clearly show the same thing has happened in previous economic recessions. But those same statistics tell a cautionary tale which we need to heed as we emerge from the economic gloom. Previous recoveries following a downturn have seen an increase in injury and fatality rates.
Could there be an explanation for why this happens? Well, there is and here it is. Take a look at this graph here:
It clearly shows that young and inexperienced recruits who are new to a workplace are THREE TIMES more likely to be killed or injured than their experienced workmates who have been there for a year or more.
So, during a recession when there is very little recruitment safety performance improves, but the recruitment that accompanies recovery has, in the past led to increased injuries as people return to the workplace and the new recruits are the workers most at risk.
We have to ask ourselves, is it inevitable that this pattern will repeat itself? I don’t believe it is, because if we recognise the potential problem we can do some simple things to stop it happening again.
New recruits must be properly trained – no matter how urgent the job in hand productivity and morale will suffer if your newest recruit is seriously hurt in his or her first few weeks in the job. Asking other more experienced people to look out for the new ones is easy to do and can make a big difference. A number of industry sectors use a simple system of getting new recruits to wear a different colour safety helmet or overall for the first few weeks/months so their work colleagues know they may need extra help/advice to stay safe.
I would like us all to commit to making this economic recovery different, by making it one where safety performance continues to improve. Recognising the problem is half the battle – now let’s fix it.