Survey points to lower 'risk intelligence', says UK IOSH health and safety leader
The great British public looks to have lost its way when it comes to risk savviness. That's a claim made by a leading voice from the health and safety profession.
John Holden, president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the Chartered body for health and safety professionals, used a recent House of Lords lunch event to respond to a new survey by highlighting what he calls a 'Jekyll and Hyde' factor at work when it comes to how the British view health and safety.
The results from a new IOSH commissioned "YouGov" survey - 'Your job - your life' - was unveiled two years after an identical survey first quizzed three thousand employees on what they really think about health and safety in the workplace.
The IOSH President outlined what he believes to be a growing lack of 'risk intelligence' or risk awareness amongst a public that's become disconnected from dealing with everyday risk. He said:
"On the one hand most people fully appreciate the value of health and safety and are thankful that it's there to keep us safe and in good health."
"But then there's the other perceived side of health and safety, the mythical monster created by some sections of our media that tells us it's all about jobsworths making daft decisions and tying us all up in red tape,".
He drew guests' particular attention to two key findings from the survey:
- There are around 200,000 - 300,000 injuries at work annually but when asked how many injuries they thought occurred over a year, this figure was underestimated by 69 per cent of respondents; 46 per cent thought there are fewer than 50,000 injuries.
- When asked what best described health and safety, only 5 per cent believe health and safety stops people getting on with their lives, whereas as many as 15 per cent still feel it becomes unnecessary red tape, with a number of references made to "a lot of silly rules" regarding health and safety, saying that "common sense has disappeared".
Yet most people were shown to view the principle of health and safety very positively:
- 70 per cent say health and safety doesn't make it difficult for them to do their job
- 59 per cent would be most likely to describe health and safety as helping to save lives or prevent people getting ill or hurt at work
- Nearly two thirds (60 per cent) say health and safety at work is important to them.
"While it's heartening to see from the survey that most people continue to be generally very positive about health and safety in the workplace, it's nonetheless worrying that people's perceptions appear to contradict their basic instincts," says John.
"Certainly the media myths store up problems for us all, not just those working in the sector, because they create the danger of people believing some of the nonsense written and talked about health and safety, then turning their backs on the everyday need to protect against the very real risks that do exist in the workplace."
'Your job - your life' survey showed:
- That people's attitudes to health and safety have held up pretty well over the last two years, despite a global recession and an increase in the amount of negative reporting on health and safety in the media - 60 per cent say that health and safety at work is important to them (67 per cent in 2008); 59 per cent recognise health and safety helps save lives or prevent people getting ill or hurt at work (65 per cent in 2008)
- More workers (81 per cent) now know where to go for health and safety advice at work than was the case in 2008 (76 per cent).
- Young workers are more aware now of where to get health and safety advice at work - 70 per cent compared to 58 per cent two years ago. However, 24 per cent still said they didn't know where to go, compared to an average of 15 per cent for all workers.
- IOSH commissioned YouGov to carry out two online surveys, in March 2010, asking the opinions of 4,644 adults from across Great Britain (weighted in order to be nationally representative). Of these, 2,804 were employed, and the published results are based on responses from these employed respondents.
- This survey was first run in March 2008, when 4,140 adults were asked the same questions that were asked this year. Again, the results were drawn from two online surveys.
IOSH is the Chartered body for health and safety professionals. With more than 37,000 members in 85 countries, it is the world's biggest professional health and safety organisation. IOSH sets standards, and support, develop and connect our members with resources, guidance, events and training. They are the voice of the profession, and campaign on issues that affect millions of working people.
IOSH was founded in 1945 and is a registered charity with international NGO status.
Contact IOSH www.iosh.co.uk
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