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May 20, 2010

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IOSH survey reveals public has lost its ‘risk-savviness’

The general public lacks risk awareness and intelligence and has become disconnected from dealing with everyday risk.

This is the overall conclusion drawn by IOSH from a survey it recently commissioned on what people really think about health and safety in the workplace. IOSH president John Holden told attendees at a special event at the House of Lords today (20 May) that the results point to a “Jekyll and Hyde” factor at work when it comes to how we view health and safety.€ᄄ

The YouGov survey, entitled ‘Your job – your life’ quizzed three thousand employees around the UK and found that while 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, many also believe in the “mythical monster created by some sections of the media that tells us it’s all about jobsworths making daft decisions and tying us all up in red tape”.€ᄄ
Key findings include:

  • The number of annual injuries at work (200,000 – 300,000) was underestimated by 69 per cent of respondents – 46 per cent thought there were fewer than 50,000;
  • Workplace health and safety at work is important to 60 per cent, and 59 per cent recognise that health and safety helps save lives or prevents people getting ill or hurt at work;
  • 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.

Said John Holden: “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.

“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.”

HSE chair Judith Hackitt, also speaking at the House of Lords event, also highlighted the ‘myths’ issue, saying: “In the last two to three years, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to stand up for health and safety and rebut the nonsense that goes on in our name, but I will never give up doing so because I really believe in it.”
The YouGov survey was first run in March 2008. The results of this year’s version can be downloaded from the IOSH site by clicking here.

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