A law firm has warned that the UK’s economic position could be creating a perfect storm for increased accidents in the workplace.
National law firm Stephensons is concerned that the rapid growth in the number of warehouse and logistics jobs could be leading to inadequate health and safety procedures, with worried employees – concerned about losing their jobs – feeling forced to work at risk, resulting in more workplace accidents and injuries in these areas.
The latest RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) figures also appear to support the law firm’s concerns.
According to RIDDOR data released at the end of March, the number of employees who have suffered fatal injuries in the services industry – encompassing warehouse, logistics, wholesale trade and retail trade – has increased by 23 per cent when compared with figures released at the same time last year.
Conversely, and demonstrating an even starker rise in the services industry – the data shows that the number of fatalities in the workplace across all industries has decreased by 7 per cent.
In addition, Stephensons, which represents people for personal injury claims, has seen an upturn in the number of enquiries coming into the personal injury team from workers in distribution centres, warehouses and supermarkets. The claimants say that inadequate training and poor application or absence of health and safety procedures at work are leading to more accidents.
Danielle Callaway, a partner in Stephensons’ personal injury team, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp rise in the number of people employed in warehouses and distribution centres.
“As a result of the closure of non-essential shops and social distancing restrictions, many shoppers have gone online for delivery or collection of a vast range of goods and, in turn, retailers have dramatically boosted their e-commerce offer.
“This has led to rapid growth and rapid recruitment over a short period of time in this sector, in order to meet the increasing demand. Companies dealing with such a sudden need for staff may not have been able to ensure all new recruits have been adequately trained and equally, due to increased demand on the business, they may be struggling to enforce existing health and safety procedures.
“In addition to this, unemployment is high, which could mean many employees are staying in jobs they know are unsafe, being torn between protecting their health and safety and the need to work and put food on the table.”
Callaway added that “it is important to emphasise to employees their right to work in a safe environment and for them to be aware of options available to them to claim compensation if they have been injured at work, securing vital financial support for themselves and their families”.
On 20 April 2021, the Office of National Statistics said that an estimated 1.67 million people were unemployed during December 2020 to February 2021, up 311,000 on the same period the previous year but down 50,000 on the quarter, the first quarterly decrease since October to December 2019.
According to forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Treasury’s economics watchdog, unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5 per cent at the end of this year once the furlough scheme ends.
The news came on the week of International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which was on Tuesday. It is an international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work around the globe. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s event focuses on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems to build resilience, in order to face crises now and in the future, drawing on lessons learned and experiences from the world of work.