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January 5, 2017

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Study finds half of workers “don’t know basic H&S rules”


A nationwide poll1 and ‘Health and Safety Theory’ test by international safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE, has revealed a worrying lack of health and safety knowledge in the workplace.

The company polled 1,000 people working in industries including food and drink, logistics and transport, construction, and manufacturing, and found that an overall, 58% of workers don’t know the basic health and safety rules of their workplace.

The poll revealed that:

  • 60% don’t fully adhere to health and safety practices;
  • 33% don’t think their workplace has any health and safety rules at all;
  • when asked to identify common safety symbols, respondents were most confused by the following three symbols – 70% of respondents thought that the ‘flammable’ symbol actually meant ‘naked flame’, 54% thought the prompt to wear a safety harness meant beware of overhead workers, and 55% thought that the ‘drop’ symbol had been incorrectly labelled when it was in fact correct;
  • 64% of people didn’t know that green signs signal an emergency;
  • in the event of an employee suffering a back injury at work, one third (31%) would ask them to move their fingers and toes. Just half (53%) would call an ambulance;
  • one in 10 people (11%) would feel ‘very confident’ that their colleagues would react in the correct way if they were injured at work; and
  • a quarter (24%) understood that depression and mental health issues in the work place affect one in six employees.

    The results revealed significant differences between attitudes and knowledge levels of people in different industries, with retail and distribution workers coming out on top:

1)       Retail and distribution

2)      Manufacturing

3)      Logistics and transport

4)      Food and drink

5)      Automotive

6)      Building, architecture and construction

Retail and distribution workers have the best knowledge of what employers must provide to protect them at work, with 60% correctly selecting all employer responsibilities next to just 42% of those in the automotive industry. While men and women performed similarly when identifying health and safety symbols, there were noticeable differences in their overall attitudes to workplace safety. Half (52%) of the men questioned said they know and adhere to all health and safety practices in their workplace, compared to just a third (32%) of women.

Men also see more value in health and safety rules, with 42% compared to 36% of women acknowledging that “it stops people getting hurt and makes sure everyone is safe.”

James Smith, Co-owner of A-SAFE, said: “Health and safety is a huge priority for any business, regardless of size. Small hazards which are ignored can easily become a major incident resulting in injury, death and significant damage to a business’s reputation and finances. “We wanted to identify the knowledge black spots across various industries, to help employers fill in any gaps and ensure health and safety is a priority for all team members in the New Year.”


Independent poll of 1,000 people working in manufacturing, health and safety, logistics and transport, building and architecture, food and drink, automotive, and retail and distribution industries, carried out in December 2016.

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7 years ago

Bit of a sensationalised headline considering there are over 31 million people currently in employment in the UK – and the study looked at 1000….0.003% of the workforce.

7 years ago

What a terrible state of affairs, a study (sorry a questionnaire) returned by 1000 people is broadcast as if it has some statistical significance claiming to represent the UK workforce of 30 million people, and by the publication of IOSH who boast about their royal charter, but publish this trash as if it is meaningful. Too small a sample to be considered significant, 167 respondents per industry sector, that’s fewer “automotive” than there are branches of kwik fit or halfords. 167 from retail, that’s less than one chain of choclatiers (or maybe they are food and drink). Questions which obfuscate… Read more »

James Willis
James Willis
7 years ago

I agree. And who wrote it? An infant?

7 years ago

“64% of people didn’t know that green signs signal an emergency”

That’s because they don’t; I believe green signs denote “safe condition”, or “emergency exit”.

I agree with the earlier posters, not one of the better articles I’ve read on here. Perhaps it’s a slow news day.