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Decline of Non-Fatal Injuries: Safer Work Environment or Underreporting?

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Charlie Wright
Published On
April 20, 2020

In Great Britain, the amount of employee self-reports of non-fatal injuries has continuously decreased from 700,000 in 1986/87 to 581,000 workers in 2018/19.This substantial decline draws the question of whether the reduction is down to a genuinely safer working environment, or if there are other factors at play.

Does Underreporting Play A Factor?

There are some suggestions that the decline in incidents over the years could be down to underreporting. Underreporting means that employees may not be all events that they should. There are several reasons that injuries might be underreported. For instance, some workers do not want to get caught up in the compensation process. Many are unaware that their injury is work-related and reportable. Others do not want to report because they may be afraid of being stigmatised.

Due to the nature of underreporting, it is difficult to know the fully the extent to which it affects the reporting figures. It may be only a negligible factor. It may be major. It may vary from industry to industry.

Safer Working Environment

Role of Legislation

In terms of legislation, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 still forms the basis of workplace safety law in the UK, and went on to influence legislation in Europe, New Zealand and other parts of the world. While the principles have largely remained the same, the Act continues to see updates and reforms alongside the evolution of the workplace and new health and safety challenges that arise. Fortunately, the explosion of the internet and rapid developments in technology has made managing health and safety in the workplace more efficient then it has ever been before.

Health and safety law states that organisations must:

  • Assess risks to employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected by their activities;
  • Arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures;
  • Have a written health and safety policy if they employ five or more people;
  • Ensure they have access to competent health and safety advice;·    
  • Consult employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures.

If businesses don’t comply with these requirements can have serious consequences, involving sanctions like fines, imprisonment and disqualification.

Role of Marketing & Safety Campaigns

Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are all influenced to a certain degree by the advertising, marketing and information that surrounds us. A safety campaign is a structured course of action to achieve a specific goal. Campaigning works across a range of media to raise awareness of a particular issue and ultimately shape the behaviour of the intended audience. Safety campaigns are an effective way of sharing a message with a workforce; providing succinct information that can inspire employees, educating them on safe practices and essentially motivating them to ensure the health, safety and welfare for themselves as well as others.

With the rise of increasingly digitised mediums, safety campaigns have become more targeted and more effective. Campaigns SafeWork NSW: Safety Starts With You, and   Chrysler Print advert: ‘Your children take enough risks at home already’,have driven public and corporate awareness of health and safety.

Role of Technology

In the last decades the role of technology has overhauled the way we do things - especially for businesses. There is no longer a reliance on traditional methods and means. Thanks to the fast-evolving technological advancements, technology has been a driver of success for modern businesses.

Many new technologies are making work environments safer for employees and their customers alike. The quick rise of technology has had many positive effects in the workplace when it comes to its safety. Businesses are using digital technology and software to allow employees to become better aware of their workplace surroundings and the dangers they may encounter.

Is technology playing a big role in reducing non-fatal injuries?

Safety technology is currently used to prevent worker fatalities and injuries while improving workplace safety. Companies are realising that by using technology to improve health and safety conditions in the workplace they can keep up with regulations and standards whilst providing better working conditions.  

Employee safety monitoring, training and reporting are just a few ways technology is improving workplace safety for employees. Technology is helping employees to become more aware of their workplace hazards and dangers. It also provides high-speed and sophisticated communication which is essential to prevent accidents.


The role of technology has been unquestionably effective in the advancements of health and safety, making reporting not only more accessible, but reliable. EHS software has created a safer environment by improving employee work conditions and their welfare. All of the above factors (and more) have played a role in the decline of non-fatal injuries in the workplace in the UK.


Charlie Wright

Charlie has been with Airsweb for over a year. She had written articles with the interest of health & safety, environmental impacts and reporting software

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