Employers have welcomed the decision to ease some of the administration burden associated with the reporting of workplace accidents. However, leading health and safety experts warn that changes to the RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences) rules, announced in April, should not be seen as a relaxation of efforts to improve the industry's safety record.
Firms are no longer legally required to report an injury that incapacitates a worker for three days or less. They now only have to report it if the employee is off work for seven days or more. The deadline by which the over seven-day injury must be reported has also increased to 15 days from the day of the accident. However, employers must still keep records of all accidents, including 'three day' injuries, as part of the revised RIDDOR rules.
Most employers must keep an accident book under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979, and that record will be sufficient for the more minor incidents, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which monitors the reporting system.
RIDDOR is the law that requires employers, and anyone else with responsibility for health and safety within a workplace, to report and keep records of work related deaths, serious injuries, cases of diagnosed industrial disease and certain 'dangerous occurrences' (near miss accidents).
'This is not a slackening of health and safety rules,' said Tony Sidwell, chairman of the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) health, safety and environment committee. 'All accidents must still be recorded, but contractors can manage this by using their normal accident book procedure.'
The B&ES will also carry on collating all accident statistics on behalf of its members and the industry. The association reminded firms to submit their information, including all three-day injuries.
'Employers and the self-employed must report listed occupational diseases when they receive a written diagnosis from a doctor that they or their employee is suffering from these conditions and the sufferer has been doing the work activities listed,' said an HSE statement.
Mr Sidwell said the easing of some bureaucratic requirements was good news for employers at a time when they are facing serious financial pressures. However, he added that the current economic conditions should not be seen as an excuse to ease back on health and safety measures, which should be regarded as 'core functions of any project or work task'.
'The industry has made great progress in protecting the welfare of its employees in recent years and this must not be undermined by cost or time pressures,' he said.
Injuries to be reported include: fractures, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes; amputations; dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine; loss of sight (temporary or permanent); chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye; injury resulting from an electric shock or electrical burn leading to unconsciousness; unconsciousness caused by asphyxia or exposure to a harmful substance or biological agent; acute illness requiring medical treatment, or loss of consciousness arising from absorption of any substance by inhalation, ingestion or through the skin; acute illness requiring medical treatment where there is reason to believe that this resulted from exposure to a biological agent or its toxins or infected material.
Occupational diseases must also be reported once a written diagnosis from a doctor has been received. Dangerous occurrences are defined as 'near miss' events such as the collapse of load-bearing parts of lifts and lifting equipment; explosion, collapse or bursting of any closed vessel or associated pipe work; failure of any freight container; accidental release of a biological agent; collapse or partial collapse of a scaffold etc.
The HSE defines incapacitation as a condition that forces the worker to be absent or 'unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work'.
The HSE revamped its website last year to deal with the reporting of most incidents online. However, there is still a telephone service available for reporting fatal and major injuries only. The Incident Contact Centre is on 0845 300 9923.
Full details, reporting methods and revised guidance linked to the new RIDDOR regulations are available to download from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website (www.hse.gov.uk).