The annual report of fatal workplace injuries published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in July 2021, is a stark reminder of the dangers employees face daily in the transport and logistics industry, and what we can do to prevent them. We believe there are still too many avoidable incidents and injuries in our sector.
According to the latest report, which covers March 2020 to March 2021, an alarming 142 workers were killed at work in Great Britain, an increase of 29 from the previous year (which we should note was particularly low compared with other recent years). The statistics also revealed that the transportation and storage sector has a rate of fatal injury that is around twice the average across all industries. The manufacturing sector also has fatal injuries at 1.5 times the average rate.
From year to year, some things don’t change much in these reports. The most common kinds of fatal accident to workers continue to be falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle, and being struck by a moving object. Combined, these three types of incidents account for more than half of all fatal accidents to workers in 2020/21. This worrying statistic is one that we need to continue to work together to reduce across the transport and logistics industry.
Older transport and logistics workers are more at risk
The HSE stated in the report that the rate of death is greatest for older age groups, with 41 of the deaths in 2020/21 happening in workers aged 60 and over. The fact that older workers are more likely to suffer fatal injuries at work is particularly concerning for the logistics industry, as it continues to face the challenge of an aging workforce (and a shortage of younger candidates stepping in to fill roles).
One way to reduce the risk with anybody who has been in the same role for a number of years, including older workers, is through regular refresher training. When carrying out the same tasks from day-to-day, it is natural to become a little complacent, and sadly this is often when incidents occur. Regular refresher training can help to keep the potential risks and safe practices at the front of employees’ minds, reducing the risk of an incident occurring.
What causes fatal incidents in the transport and logistics industry?
There are risks involved in every transport and logistics operation, which is why training plays such a crucial role. Every employee must be provided with the correct training to carry out their everyday tasks, for legal compliance, and above all, safety – both their own, and that of those around them. Of course, lift truck operators and LGV drivers require the relevant training but employers should not forget that training is also required for manual handling tasks, and for pedestrians required to work in close proximity to vehicles, for example.
The HSE report showed that being struck by a moving vehicle accounted for 25 fatal injuries to workers in 2020/21, representing 18% of the total number of deaths over the year. This is just one of the completely avoidable incidents that could be prevented by the correct training and supervision when workplace transport equipment is involved.
The Covid-19 pandemic may also have been a factor in last year’s injury statistics. When more temporary staff are being enlisted to cover absences and intense increases in demand, training and standards are sometimes overlooked to ‘just get the job done’. However, even if a new or temporary member of staff has previous experience and training, they must still receive the correct level of training, specific to the role they are carrying out, as well as to the operation. Their ability to operate a lift truck, for instance, should also be verified before an Authorisation to Operate is issued.
The number of work-related deaths to members of the public in the transportation and storage sector was 23, which is notably lower in 2020/21 compared with earlier years. Figures from the previous four years were between 33 and 51 deaths annually.
It remains to be seen if this downward trend will continue, or if it was a symptom of the fact that the public had to ‘Stay at Home’ for much of 2020, reducing visitors to sites as well. Regardless, training and supervision of employees can help to ensure that visitors to sites are not inadvertently putting themselves in danger while they are there.
How can we reduce the number of fatalities in the transport and logistics industry?
Although the HSE points out that “Over the past 20 years there has been a long-term reduction in the number of workplace fatalities, demonstrating that Great Britain is one of the safest places to work in the world”, we all still have a responsibility to reduce the risks and save lives.
Implementing the correct training, as well as supervision when needed, is one of the best ways to avoid incidents. RTITB’s mission is to help save lives in the workplace across the transport and logistics industry, through the creation of operator and instructor training, materials and resources of the highest standards, and RTITB Accreditation that helps organisations delivering training in-house to reduce risk and improve compliance.
Contact RTITB for more information on improving safety within your supply chain organisation.