COSTS OF ACCIDENTS IN THE WORKPLACE BASIC INFORMATION - UNITED KINGDOM DATA


One of the objectives of the HSC and the HSE has been to raise awareness among managers of the costs of accidents, not just the immediate costs of damages, replacement of equipment and criminal fines but the ter economic cost to an organisation. For example, even a quite minor accident involving for example a person slipping on a loose stair carpet can involve substantial management time being incurred.

This could involve: ! first aid provision;

! arranging transport to a doctor or hospital for treatment;
! engaging a temporary replacement worker;
! interviewing the injured person and colleagues to establish the facts;
! checking security video’s records and making sure any film is not deleted;
! completing accident book and statutory accident reporting tasks;
! preparing an accident investigation report;

! payroll action to deal properly with sick pay;
! notifying insurers and/or regulatory agencies, completing their questionnaires and dealing with related correspondence;
! reviewing maintenance procedures and devising new instructions; dealing with telephone inquiry from local health and safety regulatory authority to ascertain the current situation;
! briefing the legal department/solicitor;
! meeting regulatory authority inspectors, accompanying them on an inspection of the office and providing details of the steps taken to avoid similar accidents.

At the other end of the scale, the costs of dealing with a major disaster can be enormous. For example, after the Southall rail crash of September 1997 where an express train passed a signal at danger and collided with freight vehicles in its path, the train company involved, Great Western Trains, was subject to investigation for over two years by the police and HM Railways Inspectorate.

A major public inquiry was held into the causes of the accident and the train protection systems which should be available for avoiding collisions. Numerous parties from across the rail industry took part who, along with victims and the bereaved, had to be legally represented.

Approximately 100 employees and managers of Great Western and Railtrack were required to give evidence to the public inquiry. Later, in criminal proceedings, Great Western and the train driver were acquitted of manslaughter but the company was nevertheless fined £1.5 million for contraventions of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

In addition there were massive claims for loss of life, serious injury, lost rolling stock, damage to track and infrastructure and disruption of the network. The total cost of the tragedy to all involved has never been calculated.

Accidents are reported by the HSE to cost British employees somewhere between £3.7 and £6.4 billion per year in lost wages in 2001/2002, and losses to employers of £3.9 to £7.8 billion (HSE, 2004). An example given by the HSE is an injury caused by working with an unguarded drill which cost a small engineering company £45,000, not counting the fine and costs of being prosecuted subsequently.

As a rationale for accident prevention being on the management agenda, the cost of accidents has obvious attractions for promotion by the health and safety authorities: it is a rare example of them being able to point to positive economic gains which can be attained in a short-time frame.

There are certain tensions between on the one hand the demands of health and safety management and on the other, commercial drivers and incentives and liability considerations. The economic case is seen to ultimately appeal to shareholders and other funders and stakeholders who exert influence on directors and senior managers.

One of the latest contributions in this direction has been the HSE’s on its “Ready Reckoner” homesite www.hse.gov.uk/costs/index.asp for illustrating accident and incident costs. There is no substitute however for studying one’s own costs of injuries, ill health and other accident outcomes to gauge the full impact on the bottom line.

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