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RIDDOR – A Missed Opportunity?

RIDDOR – A Missed opportunity?

From 1 October 2013 the new Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations came into force.

The alleged reason for the change from RIDDOR 1995 (as amended) to RIDDOR 2013 is to simplify the reporting requirements in line with the recommendations of the Young report (2010) and the Lofstedt review (2011).

To sketch out a bit of background here – the Young report made two recommendations regarding RIDDOR. The first was implemented by the 2012 amendment to change over-3-day injures to over-7-day injuries. The second was to “re-examine the operation of RIDDOR to determine whether this is the best approach to providing an accurate national picture of workplace accidents”.

Professor Lofstedt recommended “… RIDDOR and its associated guidance should be amended by the end of 2013 to provide clarity for businesses on how to comply with the requirements”. He did so on the basis that RIDDOR is inefficient at capturing data (the HSE estimates about 50% of reportable non-fatal injuries are reported as they should be), that Fee For Intervention was likely to drive reporting efficiencies down rather than up, and that employers were often confused over the “unnecessarily” complicated report categories and ambiguity over interpretation.

The Regulations have remained fundamentally unchanged; they still require the reporting of certain work-related events to the Incident Contact Centre by the employer, or controller of premises (other duty-holders are available). The requirements to report work-related fatalities, over-7-day injuries and immediate hospitalisation of a non-worker are unchanged. The reporting methods and the recording requirements are also largely unchanged.

What have significantly changed are the three lists of reportable event under the old category titles of Major Injuries, Dangerous Occurrences and Reportable Diseases. These lists now contain fewer entries. It is undeniable that the changes to the list of Major Injuries – now called Specified Injuries – are very significant. Every entry in the old list has either been removed or amended in some way, and new injuries have been added. The reduction in the total number of Reportable Occupational Diseases is also significant, the changes to the list of Dangerous Occurrences less so (and will be practically insignificant as far as most employers will be concerned). For a more considered summary of the changes, see the RRC Technical Update.

So why did I use the word ‘alleged’ in the first paragraph above? Because, to my mind, the Regulations are as technical as they always have been. The basic requirements are the same, and the differences are mainly just a rewording of some lists. But each list will still require a practical interpretation to see if/how it applies. I suspect that most workplaces will not notice a difference in the demands placed on them by RIDDOR. Yes, the workplace may end up reporting slightly different events, but it will still have to report those events in the same way as it has always done, and there will still be questions about whether a particular event is reportable or not. Arguably, reporting efficiencies will not be affected by the changes.

Some of the changes will make interpretation a little easier when dealing with certain types of event. For example, the old “any amputation” entry in the list of old Major Injuries has been replaced with the new more detailed phrase “amputation of an arm, hand, finger, thumb, leg, foot or toe”.

This does add some clarity, though the HSE’s lack of interest in amputation of the ear or nose is interesting (if you use a very broad definition of the word interesting).

When you look at the list of Reportable Occupational Diseases you see that the list has apparently been slashed from 47 entries to just eight. But close examination will reveal that 24 of the old reportable diseases fall into two of the new categories. It is therefore closer to the truth, perhaps, to say that 47 have been cut to about 30. Whether this actually represents a simplification remains to be seen. The inclusion of the broad categories:

“(a) any cancer attributed to an occupational exposure to a known human carcinogen or mutagen (including ionising radiation); or

(b) any disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent”

may, and probably will, cause as much confusion as the 24 more precise diseases that these two lines replaced.

In fact, these two entries should capture more work-related diseases than the old list for precisely that reason – because they are more generic rather than specific. This is no bad thing, but it does make you wonder if the Regulations have been truly simplified or just changed to make them more useful to the relevant authorities (again, no bad thing) while giving the appearance of fulfilling the requirements of the two government-sponsored reports mentioned at the start.

It looks like the responses to the two recommendations made by Lord Young have been:

“Amend the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, through which businesses record workplace accidents and send returns to a centralised body, by extending to seven days the period before an injury or accident needs to be reported.”

Tick – done; now over-7-days

“The HSE should also re-examine the operation of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 to determine whether this is the best approach to providing an accurate national picture of workplace accidents.”

Tick – done; yes we have and yes it is.

And the response to the Lofstedt recommendation:

“RIDDOR and its associated guidance should be amended by the end of 2013 to provide clarity for businesses on how to comply with the requirements.”

Tick – done; we have amended to capture the data that our review has led us to believe are useful for us to know, and the Regulations are shorter but just as complicated as they always were in terms of practical interpretation. Live with it.

Or is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong; the Lofstedt review did pick up on some very significant issues. The under-reporting of reportable non-fatal injuries is a real problem. If our ‘state of the nation’ view is based on incomplete data and the authorities are designing their mid to long-term preventive plans on that basis then that is an issue. To use an old computing expression: garbage in, garbage out – if you put poor data into your model then you get poor results out.

And Fee For Intervention will most definitely not be incentivising more efficient reporting. Who wants to stick their head above the parapet to get shot by the enforcer and then get charged for the pleasure? Answers on a postcard please.

I am not convinced that fiddling around the edges of RIDDOR is the answer to either of those problems. Perhaps a missed opportunity?

What was also recognised by Lofstedt and has always been a problem with RIDDOR is confusion over what has to be reported. In particular, the “work-related” aspects of the Regulations have always been open to misinterpretation, as has the reporting of injuries to non-workers (immediate hospitalisation of a non-worker). Lofstedt specifically mentioned the latter: “The aim should be to reduce the ambiguity over the reporting requirements for businesses, particularly in relation to incidents involving members of the public…”

RIDDOR 2013 do not really change either of these requirements; at heart, the Regulations are all about the reporting of certain types of work-related event; and the requirements for reporting the hospitalisation of a non-worker are the same as they were under RIDDOR 95.

Though the HSE has not addressed either of these issues directly via these changes to the Regulations, what it has done is introduce more clarity through its guidance. In particular, the RIDDOR part of the HSE website gives a thorough treatment to the vexed questions of what is a work-related injury and what does hospitalisation of a non-worker mean.

So, if we ignore the Dangerous Occurrences and the Reportable Occupational Diseases for now, all RIDDOR injuries must result from an accident.

Accident is defined in the Regulations as “a separate, identifiable, unintended incident, which causes physical injury”. This definition includes acts of non-consensual violence.

The accident must be work-related. This means arising “out of or in connection with work”.

An accident is “work-related” if any of the following played a significant role:

  • the way the work was carried out;
  • any machinery, plant, substances or equipment used for the work; or
  • the condition of the site or premises where the accident happened.

So, a fractured cheek bone sustained by a shop-worker who was punched in the face by an irate customer when trying to deal with that customer’s complaint would be a reportable injury. It is a Specified Injury received as the result of an accident (an act of non-consensual violence) that is work-related (the employee was carrying out their work in dealing with the customer complaint).

But the same injury received by the same shop-worker who was punched in the face by a friend who had just heard an unfortunate rumour about the worker and the friend’s wife would not be reportable. The injury and the injured person are the same; the event can still be considered an accident (non-consensual violence) but it is not work-related. The reason for the thrown punch is different and that is key in this example.

Regarding the ‘immediate hospitalisation of a non-worker’ category a broken ankle received by a member of the public who falls over in the shop when there is no defect to the floor and nothing to have caused the fall would not be reportable. It may be a fracture, it may have been caused by an accident, the member of the public may be a non-worker, they may be immediately hospitalised, but the accident is not work-related if there is no defect with the workplace to cause the fall. However, if the customer falls over a trailing cable left across a thoroughfare by an untidy shop-worker then that would be reportable because the cause of the accident becomes work-related.

And finally, Ronnie…

One final issue that has always puzzled me is that when you look at the categories of ill-health that cause the most workplace absence (surely a matter of grave concern in these austere times) you see that stress and musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) come out at top of the list. Yet RIDDOR (both old and new) does not properly capture data on either of these significant causes of absence. Stress is not a Reportable Occupational Disease (it’s not a disease, full stop), nor should time off as a result of stress be categorised as an over-7-day injury, since it is not a physical injury and does not result from a work-related accident. Similarly, most MSDs will not be captured unless they are specific injuries caused by a work-related accident that led to over-7-days’ incapacity (for example, a manual-handling injury caused by an accident), or they are in the list of Reportable Occupational Diseases (categories a, b or f; look them up – I had to).

So, one tool used by the authorities for capturing data on work-related injuries and diseases does not fully address either of the two most significant causes of workplace absence. For that, we have to rely on other sources. Hmm… As reliable as RIDDOR (remember, 50% under-reporting) or even less so? Perhaps another opportunity missed?

More information

If some aspects of RIDDOR are causing you consternation then take a look at the RIDDOR part of the HSE website and, in particular, check out the examples of reportable incidents for a full list of such illustrations.

The HSE has also published a short guidance note on RIDDOR 2013 and the changes has been published by the HSE. INDG453 is available as a free downloadable pdf.

The full text of the Regulations can be found online.

Jim Phelpstead

Jim Phelpstead BSc, PhD, CMIOSH

Working in health and safety for 18 years Jim is a long-standing RRC Associate Tutor, who loves the great outdoors.