Breaking the taboo: reporting health and safety problems in the workplace

11 February 2015

A survey has found that nearly three-quarters of British workers are too afraid to report health and safety issues at work because they fear that it could affect their opportunities for promotion or put job security at risk.

In this blog, I’ll look at the results and conclusions of the survey, consider ‘perceived fear’ and how businesses can conquer it, including helpful guidance from the HSE and the benefits to businesses.

The survey, undertaken by a consultancy firm, looked at 1600 employees in various workplaces such as factories, offices, public service bodies and shops.

Key findings:

  • 74% said they’d be scared to report a health and safety issue at work;
  • Issues seen as ‘trivial’ such as ripped carpet or a broken chair would not be reported by 81% of people;
  • 53% wouldn’t raise serious hazards including broken machinery or electrical faults in someone else’s work area;
  • 21% wouldn’t raise serious hazards including broken machinery or electrical faults in their own work area.

Safety Consultant, Mark Hall commented that this “real taboo” about reporting health and safety issues could result in accidents, injuries and even fatalities in the workplace.

Those surveyed stated that their reasons behind not wanting to report hazards included fear of losing their job, worried about their prospects for promotion or pay rises, and being labelled as a trouble maker.

Mr Hall concluded, “It's a sad indictment of the way workplace relations have deteriorated in recent years. Employees feel they have far less job security and would prefer to keep their heads down, even if it means exposing themselves to danger”.

The fear factor and how to conquer it
The survey highlights what workers really feel about the relationship between reporting health and safety issues and ultimately, their job security.

It’s important to note that, in many workplaces, this perceived fear may be just that - perceived fear.

But that doesn’t make it any less real for those that feel it. It’s important that businesses involve their workers in health and safety discussions and aim to instil confidence that comments are both welcomed and valued. This will benefit the business by making the workplace safer, reducing accidents and boosting staff morale.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a webpage dedicated to providing advice on consulting and involving your workers. They also updated their guidance ‘Consulting workers on health and safety’ which was launched by HSE Chair Judith Hackitt on 14th October. She said it would enable organisations to create a culture “which genuinely values employees’ contributions, leading to higher commitment and productivity”. To download the guidance for free, click here.

Image by Freepik


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