Tag Archives: UK

When it Comes to Health and Safety, What is Going on in France?

I know well that statistics can be manipulated to prove almost any point.  So when I was looking at the provisional total of fatal workplace injuries  I was aware of the variables.  I scanned the figures for 2015/16 and was pleased to see there had not  been an increase in incidents. It was as I looked at an EU comparison I found something curious. When it comes to health and safety, what is going on in France?

I had made a presumption that the relatively wealthy nations would score well and those moving up financially would lag behind. I was wrong, at least wrong because of France.

The British figures for 2015/16 will be confirmed in July this year, however, the average is taken over 5 years so we can lean on that.   Obviously if a single horrific incident fatally injures a large number of workers the average would spike, hence that 5 year standard. Currently 2015/16 here is projected to stand at 0.42 per 100,000 while the 5 year average is 0.52.

When I delved into the EU figures over the last decade the British safety record compares very well with other nations. All EU nations have seen a steady reduction in fatalities, without exception, but many of them had a worse record than we had to start with. For example if we look at the deaths that occurred in 1996/97 our 5 year average is half what it was back then.  However, France? I still don’t get it

France keeps company with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and is one place behind the Czech Republic. In 2013/14 ( the last Eurostat figures I could find) France returns a rate of 2.94 deaths per 100,000  workers, with an average that is slightly higher over previous years.

Again I know that figures can vary but there was no apparent spike that year.  France is the 5th biggest world economy, they built the Eiffel Tower I mean they are sensible people overall so what is going on? No comfort is to be found in the figures for none fatal injuries either, they topped the table there with rivalry from Portugal and Spain.

Naturally enough the rate in which injuries required time off work was also high. In the same period 1.4 per 100,000 workers needed time off after injury in the UK whereas across The Channel 3.1 were laid up.

In conclusion I can find no reason for the increased risk to workers in France. This obvious issue is hardly mentioned. Across the board in the EU figures France stands out time and time again when it comes to injuries to workers. Across nationalities if say one nation was working in great numbers in France and their home figures showed large numbers of worker injuries then you could say that bad practise had been imported. That isn’t the case, however, because going back to 2002 ( before major EU worker movement) the UK still had less than a 3rd of the fatal accidents its neighbour had.

My own opinion from this brief study is that so long as a single worker is killed or seriously injured then there are no laurels to be awarded to the UK or anyone else. That said I think we apply safety legislation and standards better than many countries. Globally a rate of 20 plus per 100,000 is sadly not unusual so in comparison criticising EU nations seems a bit silly. However, once you factor in the financial stability ( and while we are at it the political stability) of France with the worst record holders world wide their death rate is still best described as concerning. Yet there is no concern to be found. Unfortunately for now I will have to leave it there. I will keep digging  and let you know if I find the golden variable that explains this apparent issue. Meanwhile working in France? Take care.

Below are some of the references I found on this subject and as always I would be interested in your comments.


Chris Hodge.

International comparison of work place deaths 2002 Click here

HSE European Stats Click here

Eurostats Click here

HSE Fatal injuries Click here

Comparison stats I found looking at the USA and UK. We still come out better. No celebration just interesting. Click here 

What Has Health and Safety Ever Done For Us?

Does anyone recall the hilarious debate that Monty Python did about the Romans? A room full of Zealots were being stirred into a frenzy against the empire. The speaker was in the end defeated because instead of the Romans being seen as a negative, the room kept listing the benefits they had brought. That is how I feel sometimes. What has Health and Safety ever done for us?

It HAS given us three words most likely to have people dozing off, I will concede that. It has also provided a host of people who take the goals of health and safety and make bizarre and extreme demands in the work place.

In one instance a health and safety inspector was at a training business and was shown into the training room. It was not large, about five metres by five. It had a single double pair of doors and two ground floor windows. The woman looked around and was overall satisfied then she asked the trainer if he thought there was one improvement that could be made.

He couldn’t think of any. She smiled in a friendly way but with an air of tut tut.

‘ A fire exit sign over the doors would be a good idea.’

In order to walk in to see the sign they had to go through those doors. That is what gives us a bad name in this business.

On the plus side, and I would argue there is an overwhelming plus side,  I’ll simply address THE reason that my job exists at all and I will do it not with words but pictures. Take a look at the below.

The vast majority of people will apply common sense to all manner of work place tasks. It is the minority that cost them and others their lives, it is the few that make your business a headache and can catapult a reputation into tabloid heaven. In the above I can only identify a couple of the examples as being from the UK and the reason for that is health and safety law. We can laugh at other countries featured here but we used to do the same things and given the chance would do them again.

What Could Go Wrong?

It isn’t that anyone does things like the above thinking it will go wrong. That has to be the one issue I deal with most onsite. It is usually a case of the goal and time pressure becoming the priority. The problem is that when a hasty solution fails it normally costs  more time than it was meant to save.

No-one wants to stand in the way of progress out of sheer obstinacy, okay maybe some do,  in my case I want to get the tasks done, I need that success as much as anyone. However, I can’t allow unreasonable working practise because I know that bad things can happen. It is all part of understanding how industry works, wanting it to work while at the same time applying practical, justifiable safety codes.

Those dull old health and safety standards that summon the Sandman for some people have given countless others their lives and business the opportunity to achieve goals while staying out of court.

Take care

Chris Hodge

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