How to Report a Health & Safety Problem at Work
Despite conducting risk assessments, following health and safety processes and having measures in place to prevent accidents, it’s inevitable that accidents in the workplace will still happen. However, it’s important that when an incident does occur, it’s recorded and reported correctly.
Statistics by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report that 123 employees suffered a fatal injury whilst working in 2021/22. If a worker suffers a fatal or serious workplace injury, then employers are legally required to report it to the relevant authorities under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). And if you are ‘responsible person’ as defined by the HSE, such as an employer, manager, or supervisor, you have a legal responsibility to ensure RIDDOR is correctly followed at your workplace.
What Must be Reported Under RIDDOR?
All workplace accidents, no matter how minor, should be recorded and entered into the employer’s accident book, as required under Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Although only incidents that fit into the below categories are legally required to be reported under RIDDOR.
- Accidents resulting in the death of any person – All deaths of workers and non-workers, with the exception of suicides, must be reported if they arise from a work-related accident, including an act of physical violence to a worker.
- Accidents resulting in specified injuries to workers – All injuries specified by the HSE must be reported. This includes amputations, any injury likely to lead to permanent loss of sight and any loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia.
- Over-seven-day incapacitation of a worker -Accidents must be reported where they result in an employee or self-employed person being away from work, or unable to perform their normal work duties, for more than seven consecutive days as the result of their injury.
- Non-fatal accidents requiring hospital treatment to non-workers – Accidents to members of the public must be reported if the person is taken directly from the scene of the accident to the hospital for treatment of that injury. Examinations and diagnostic tests do not constitute ‘treatment’.
- Occupational diseases – Employers and self-employed people must report diagnoses of certain occupational diseases, where these are likely to have been caused or worsened by their work.
- Dangerous occurrences – Dangerous occurrences are certain, specified near-miss events, which must be reported. This includes incidents such as the accidental release of any substance which could cause injury to any person.
- Gas incidents -Distributors, fillers, importers & suppliers of flammable gas must report incidents where someone has died, lost consciousness, or been taken to hospital for treatment to an injury arising in connection with that gas.
It’s very important to report deaths and serious injuries caused at work as it helps the relevant authorities to identify where or how risks arise and whether they need to be investigated. The report will also allow the enforcing authorities to provide advice about how to avoid workplace deaths, injuries, ill health and accidental loss in the future.
What is not reportable under RIDDOR?
Reports on the following are not required under RIDDOR:
- Medical or dental treatment being carried out by a registered doctor or dentist
- Accidents to members of the armed forces whilst on duty
- Road traffic accidents unless the accident involved:
- loading/unloading a vehicle
- work alongside a road such as road maintenance or construction
- escape of substances being conveyed by a vehicle
- a train
Reports are also not required under RIDDOR where this would duplicate other similar reporting requirements, including reports required under the:
- Nuclear Installations Act 1965
- Merchant Shipping Act 1988
- Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017
- Civil Aviation (Investigation of Military Air Accidents at Civil Aerodromes) Regulations 2005
- Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 1996
- Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002
Where a worker is injured and incapacitated for more than 3 days, but less than 7 days, the incident must be recorded, but not reported to the HSE.
When Does a Workplace Accident Need to be Reported?
For most incidents, the report must be made to the enforcing authority without delay and within ten days of the incident (Weightmans, 2018). For accidents resulting in the over-seven-day incapacitation of a worker, the responsible person must notify the enforcing authority within 15 days of the incident.
Cases of occupational disease, including those associated with exposure to carcinogens, mutagens, or biological agents, should be reported as soon as the responsible person receives a diagnosis.
After the Incident
After an incident has occurred, an investigation should be done into what went wrong, which will determine how the accident happened and whether it was preventable.
If the accident was preventable, then your risk assessment should be updated to ensure new measures are put in place to avoid further incidents. Incidents and near misses can identify gaps in your risk assessment and current procedures, so should be learnt from wherever possible.
Reporting a Health and Safety Concern Inside of Work
If you notice a hazard or have a health and safety concern at work, don’t stay silent. You may be the only person aware of the danger and reporting it could prevent an incident from occurring.
The first step you can take is to report it to your supervisor or immediate manager. Explain your concerns to them and if possible, suggest what can be done to resolve the issue. They should be able to reassure you that there are control measures in place already, or that the issue will be looked into as a priority.
If you feel that these concerns haven’t been taken seriously, you can escalate your concerns either to your Head of Health and Safety or HR. Explain the same concerns that you previously expressed and why you believe your concerns haven’t been acted upon.
In some industries you may be protected by unions or employee representatives who can provide support, for example, the British Medical Association, Fire Brigades Union and National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. If you’re unsure if you could be supported by a union, you can search on the Trades Union Congress.
If none of the above resolves the issue, you can report your concerns to your local authority, HSE or specific enforcing authority. If you think health and safety laws are being broken, you should report your concerns directly to the HSE. This can be done anonymously online or via telephone at 0300 003 1647.
Many industry specific enforcing authorities exist alongside the HSE in the UK that are able to enforce health and safety in various workplaces. For example;
- Environmental Health Department
- Office of Rail and Road (ORR)
- Care Quality Commission
- Office for Nuclear Regulation
If you are worried about reporting concerns, it’s important to note that The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects workers who blow the whistle when reporting a health and safety risk. This means you are protected by law from suffering a detriment if you raise a health and safety concern with your employer or local enforcing body, so this should not be a barrier to reporting your worries.
Reporting a Health and Safety Concern Outside of Work
Organisations don’t just have a duty to protect their employees, but they are also required to protect any member of the public who may be affected by their work. If you are concerned about the health and safety of an organisation you do not work at, you are still entitled to report this.
The first step should be to report the issue or concern to the business itself. This can be done on premises, such as by talking to a manager, or by reporting this online, such as via email. The organisation should advise you on how/why the situation is safe or should assure you that the incident will be looked into further.
If you do not feel your concern has been taken seriously, you can report your concerns to your local authority, HSE or industry specific enforcing authorities, in the same process as employees.
Reporting a Near Miss
If you witness a near miss, you should submit a near miss report to prevent future incidents from taking place. Speak to your Health and Safety Manager or HR to see if your organisation has a formal process in place for this. If there is not an alternative form in place, free near miss report templates can be found online.
Once you have submitted your report, you should expect to hear back about what steps have been put in place to prevent the incident from happening again.
Employers have a duty of care requirement to help ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of every employee within their organisation. This also includes employees who work alone, from home, or internationally.
The HSE also states that employers are required to ensure the safety of anyone who deals with the organisation, directly applying to customers, suppliers and the general public. This means building premises are kept clutter free, clean and help eliminate risks.
Hazards that can cause serious injury include electrical safety, fire safety, slip or trip hazards and falls from height. Less obvious dangers should also be considered such as musculoskeletal disorders and work-related stress. Employers are required to conduct a risk assessment to identify these hazards and implement effective measures to help avoid workplace injuries.
Additional precautions should be taken when it comes to employees working alone as they are exposed to greater levels of risk. Implementing a personal safety solution can help to protect the safety of your staff, providing a way to call for help in emergency situations.
Most accidents can be easily avoided if the right measures are put in place to help identify the potential cause of the accident and how it could affect someone. Effective training and a positive approach towards safety at work would also help encourage staff to be more proactive towards their own safety.
Where a workplace incident under RIDDOR is the result of a breach of health and safety regulations, employers can face criminal proceedings and be fined up to £10 million by the HSE. With conviction rates as high as 93% employers should do all they can to comply with legislation and protect their staff. Calculate how much you could save on HSE fines by implementing an employee safety service: