In an ideal world, employees should feel comfortable to report any injuries, unsafe situations or near-misses to their employer. After all, having insight into the real-life situations that staff are facing enables employers to carry out much more thorough risk assessments and put more comprehensive and effective health and safety measures in place – which in turn benefits workers too.
Sadly, however, this is not always the case. Employees can feel scared to report incidents to their employer, either for fear of getting into trouble, or the perception that their employer won’t make any changes anyway. This has been backed up by a study by Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, which showed that employees across all industries are too scared to report an injury sustained in the workplace, for fear that they will make their employer angry.
The survey which involved 650 individuals, found that 38% of respondents who had been involved in an incident, did not report it. The most common reasons given by employees about why they would decide not to disclose their injuries was that they were concerned it would make their employer angry (19%), they didn’t think anything would be done about it (19%) or that they would face repercussions for reporting the accident (8%).
The importance of reporting injuries in the workplace
Under the Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) employers, and other people in control of work premises, are required by law to report and keep records of:
- work-related accidents which cause death;
- work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries;
- diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases; and
- certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm)
There are also special requirements for gas incidents.
Of course, a fatality or major incident is unlikely to go unreported at work – but what about other incidents and near-misses which can slip under the radar? If these are not reported and tackled, they could represent a much more serious incident in the future, causing serious harm and costing the business in reputation, legal proceedings and fines.
Read more about the importance of incident reporting in our blog: Risk Management – knowledge is power
Reporting incidents, no matter how small they may seem, will ultimately allow organisations to create a safer work environment. While all businesses hold a legal duty to carry out risk assessments and take steps to reduce or eliminate the risk, some risks remain hidden and accidents do still happen.
The most effective way of revealing hidden risks and preventing further harm is through incident reporting. By becoming aware of a hazard that has caused an injury or near miss, the organisation is able to take steps to eliminate the risk and prevent any other employees from being injured.
But how can employers encourage reluctant employees to report accidents at work?
Tackling the stigma
As well as fear and apathy, there are many other reasons staff don’t report injuries at work. They may be embarrassed, or not know how to report an incident. Perhaps they do not feel motivated enough to bother, or feel under pressure to keep quiet. Maybe they are worried they will be perceived as less competent than their colleagues.
In order to overcome these barriers, encouraging and praising incident reporting must form an integral part of an organisation’s health and safety policy and messaging.
Communicate with employees
Verbal communication is perhaps the strongest way of communicating a positive message around reporting. By discussing the issue with your staff in an open and positive way, you are able to show them that you are approachable and that their safety is a top priority.
It should be made clear that employees will never be punished for reporting a hazard or incident and blame will not be assigned. Instead, reporting should be about prevention and correction in order to maintain their safety. You should also reiterate that no accident or perceived risk is too small to report.
When receiving reports on an accident or incident, providing ongoing feedback on how you are dealing with it will demonstrate to your employees that you are taking it seriously and that reporting the incident was worth their time. Openly praise staff for reporting incidents and near misses to make it clear to others that you welcome the feedback.
Make it easy to report a workplace injury
Accident and hazard reporting should also form an integral part of your written health and safety policy. It is important that reporting is encouraged but also that it is made clear on how to do so, when and to whom. You may choose to appoint a health and safety representative within your organisation or within each team to whom incidents should be reported. Or you may even consider holding monthly meetings where health and safety matters, including any incidents, are discussed openly.
If you do not have the resources to do so or feel employees will still be resistant to speaking with someone directly, you could consider an online reporting system which can also be anonymised if you see fit – or even a simple suggestion box
Foster a positive safety culture
Ultimately, creating a strong, positive safety culture will encourage employees to commit to creating a safe work environment, including reporting. However, changing a culture takes time, particularly for large organisations. It may be helpful to implement an incentive program when first introducing a new reporting system to encourage employees to get involved straight away. Incentives can be used to encourage positive behaviour. From financial bonuses for ‘making the team safer’ to bringing in treats to the next team briefing to recognize and praise an anonymous report, employees need to be made to feel safety is a priority and that the reporting of workplace injuries is a positive thing for everyone involved.
Read our guidance on creating a positive safety culture
Fostering a positive safety culture can also be supported by the introduction of additional safety measures to actively show your commitment to keeping staff safe. Safety apps like StaySafe give both employer and employee peace of mind that staff safety is being monitored at all times and employees will always receive assistance quickly in an emergency. If employees feel you are taking their safety seriously on a daily basis, they are more likely to trust you enough to report a workplace injury or near-miss when it occurs.