Safety hazards and risky practices in Northern Ireland’s workplaces could go undetected under new proposals for health and safety reporting.
Some injuries, including temporary loss of sight and burns covering less than ten per cent of the body, would no longer need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI).
“If incidents go unreported, it will be difficult to track trends, investigate incidents and prevent further injuries,” said Martin Hanna from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “This is particularly worrying for high-risk jobs in industries such as agriculture, forestry, construction, and shipping, where workers can’t afford for the focus on safety to be weakened”.
Martin put the proposals into context: “If a worker is temporarily blinded, it would go unreported and the problem which caused him to lose his sight would not be addressed. He might so be not so fortunate as to regain his sight the next time”.
Currently, injuries which cause an employee to have three or more days off work need to be reported. The HSENI proposes that the threshold is increased to seven days, which Martin says could lead to fewer injuries and dangerous practices being reported when they need the HSENI’s attention.
“All workplace injuries which result in three days or more off work should continue to be reported. Employers keep records of all incidents anyway, so it is no extra burden on businesses. The HSENI can decide whether the incident warrants further investigation,” said Martin.
He added: “These measures are apparently for the sake of cutting costs for businesses, but it would be more beneficial and cost effective to ensure accidents in the workplace didn’t happen at all”.
This view is echoed by Paul Miller of Sweeney Miller solicitors in Sunderland who said: “This is a worrying development which the legal profession will be keeping a close eye on.”