Slow accidents are happening every day at work, we just don’t realise it. I’m talking about the kind of accidents that happen over time, sometimes many years. They are usually avoidable if thorough risk assessments have been carried out, because risk assessments are designed to do just that; avoid injuries and harm to people.
Specifically, I mean the following:
- Musculoskeletal disorders – MSDs
- Work related upper limb disorders – WRULDs
- Back pain
- Hearing loss
- Eye strain
- Lung disease
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Stress and anxiety through bullying and/or violence
On the subject of bullying and violence, the latest case to hit the headlines is the Jeremy Clarkson case that resulted in his dismissal from the BBC. It was astonishing to witness the campaign to save him from being sacked and the blatant disregard for the employee who was abused at work. I would like to know how those campaigning for Jeremy would feel if someone they worked with punched them in the face and verbally abused them. Would they really expect no action to be taken?
The BBC is a place of work like any other and as such, has to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In particular the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This regulations details how an employer must look after the health, safety and welfare at work. The first one, health, is the where most slow accidents are happening in the UK.
The HSE statistics annual report 2013/2014 revealed that 2.0 million workers were suffering from an illness that they believed was caused and made worse by their current work. Around 80% of new work related conditions were either musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety. The cost to society is staggering, some £14.2 billion that is being drained from this country’s purse to make people better.
In my experience of managing teamwork and staff motivation, the best course of action was clear instruction and advise on what was acceptable and what was not. Worker involvement and agreement, through open discussions are essential, as is the opportunity to allow staff confidentiality when speaking up. Management should then set the standards for the code of conduct for any work place and walk the talk.
However, many managers do not have the skills, training or mentoring to do this. Employees are actively, through bullying and intimidation methods, discouraged or frightened to question such behaviour. This can be from colleagues and/or managers. It’s a no win situation for many that they can’t see a way out of.
Employees who bully others, can become untouchable so that their colleagues are reluctant to stand out and speak up against their bad behaviour. And this is a terrible situation for any individual to be in at work. If not tackled at the outset, bullying, and there are many subtle methods of it, becomes accepted, though never acceptable. For the abused, their work life becomes a miserable time and inevitably affects their mental and physical health along with their home life.
The best and only solution to this problem is for management to be trained to spot bullying in the workplace and how best to deal with it. Bullying must not be ignored. Along with complaints of ‘my back aches, my hands are tingling, my head hurts, my ears are ringing, my chest is tight etc. All these comments could indicate that a slow accident is happening now. Hopefully, not from the same person! Don’t ignore it. The consequences are not cost effective in the long run.