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Loss of experience in workplace raises safety concerns

A loss of older and experienced workers is leading employees to feel less safe at work, according to a new report from Draeger Safety UK.

Over half of the managers surveyed (55%) feared a major industrial disaster happening in the next five years, on the scale of the 2005 Buncefield fire or the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster.

Approximately 37% of workers surveyed said there needs to be more effort made to make sure that experience is handed down to the next generation of workers.

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Despite the concerns, the report also showed positive trends in workplace safety, with 52% of workers feeling their workplace was safer than it was this time last year. 

Employees said they felt their employers were playing their part in marking workplaces safer.

More than two thirds (67%) of employees said their company was taking safety more seriously, 54% had been given safety training at work following the pandemic, and 33% felt their employer was spending more money on workplace safety than ever before. 

Rachel Suff, senior employee relations adviser at the CIPD, said employers should be working harder to retain older members of the workforce.

She told HR magazine: “It’s encouraging that the findings show health and safety is seen as a bigger priority in workplaces. With the population and workforce ageing, employers should have a strategy for retaining older workers as they risk losing valuable skills and experience, including in relation to health and safety.

"But organisations have important obligations for training employees in relevant health and safety issues, including their own responsibilities, and they should have a structured approach in place to allow for staff attrition.

"Interventions such as mentoring schemes to transfer knowledge can also help. It’s important that employers also focus on managing the psychological as well as physical risks to people’s health and safety at work.”

Matthew Bedford, managing director at Draeger, said that workplaces will continue to get safer in the aftermath of Covid.

He said: "It is clear that Covid has created an unprecedented opportunity to initiate a positive and long-term legacy when it comes to workplace safety. Not only are most employees now familiar with who their business's health and safety lead is, but health and safety professionals have had board recognition like never before.

"Now that the impact of Covid in the workplace is reduced, there is a significant opportunity for health and safety to retain the more prominent, often board-level position that we saw during Covid, with the potential to have a lasting positive legacy on health and safety in businesses in years to come."

Draeger surveyed 1,203 UK workers, 253 of which were managers.