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Economic Recovery: A Cautionary Tale

It is with great relief 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 the UK entered the most recent recession in late 2008 many people were worried that workplace injury and fatality rates would increase, 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 the recession.

Statistics clearly show the same thing has happened in previous economic recessions. But those same statistics tell a cautionary tale which should be heeded as the country emerges 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? Look at the graph below:NEW GRAPH KEN

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.

During a recession, when there is less recruitment, safety performance improves. The recruitment that accompanies recovery has in the past led to an increase in 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? Maybe not; 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.

This is just one method of managing risks within the workplace. For further advice and ideas, please contact Ken Stevens, our Risk Services Manager, on 01302 341 344.


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