Continuing his efforts to dismantle the more contentious aspects of his predecessor’s government, President Donald Trump has just made a small but significant change to US health and safety legislation. But many commentators are concerned that the repeal actually places American workers in danger.
Under the new rules, employers will only need to keep records of workplace accidents for just six months, down from five years. This has led many occupational health experts to believe that businesses will now be able to “hide” evidence of consistent failures to raise standards and protect employees.
Obviously, the change in the law is not intended to assist bad employers, but this may be a serious unintended consequence.
Records are an employer’s best friend
Under British legislation, employers are expected to keep an Accident Book, recording every workplace injury or accident. Importantly, employers are also duty-bound to report specific incidents direct to the HSE:
- Work-related accidents which cause death.
- Work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries (reportable injuries).
- Diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases.
- Certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm).
- Certain gas incidents.
Importantly, there are no limitations on how long these records need to be kept. Indeed, the accident book (or equivalent record-keeping system) will form the basis of any defence during an HSE investigation.
A smarter way to reduce red tape
The RIDDOR regulations are actually Britain’s attempt to reduce red tape; employers must still capture details of every incident, but the number of events that need to be reported to the HSE has been simplified and reduced. Originally employers were expected to report any instance of 47 industrial diseases for instance; RIDDOR has replaced this with 8 simplified categories instead.
Although the majority of workplace incidents will fall outside the criteria for reporting, by maintaining good records, employers will be well-prepared in the event of an HSE inspection.
Record-keeping – not just for the HSE’s benefit
A well-maintained accident book is a useful tool for your business too. By monitoring previous incidents, your team will be better informed when drawing up risk assessments for instance – they will know what to be aware of, and how to better mitigate those risks.
You can also use detailed records of each incident to plan training for your staff, helping them better protect themselves, their colleagues, and any visitors to your site. Often real life examples are more effective than hypothetical scenarios for training purposes.
It is also worth bearing in mind that your accident book provides written evidence of your efforts to improve standards and prevent incidents. If nothing else, an increase in the time between recorded accidents helps to prove that staff and visitors are being kept safe.
In general, reducing red tape for businesses is a great idea. But if changes to legislation risk placing employees in danger, the government is moving in the wrong direction.
To learn more about RIDDOR record keeping and reporting, please give us a call.