Discuss the reasons why some employees in some organizations do not report accidents and near misses and discuss ways that these organizations could improve their levels of reporting.
Unreported accidents and near misses have ramifications for
individual employees, organizations, and society. Unreported
accidents can lead to untreated occupational injuries and
illnesses. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), the most common
type of occupational illness, affect muscles, ligaments, tendons,
nerves, and other soft tissues and joints (Health & Safety
Executive, 2003). Acute MSD symptoms occur when pain or loss
and restriction of movement are caused by a specific event.
Gradual or chronic symptoms may continue or recur over an
employee's lifetime and could result in permanent disability.
Initially, the employee's abilities to perform certain tasks or
jobs may be compromised. Long-term, MSDs may adversely affect
and employee's entire life, not just his work (Health & Safety
MSDs also have consequences for organizations and society.
In the UK, more than one million people suffer from work-related
MSDs, which account for about 48 percent of reported ill health
(Health & Safety Executive, 2006). MSDs caused each
employee to be absent roughly 20 days annually, resulting in 12.3
million lost working days (Health & Safety Executive,
2004). According to the Health & Safety Executive (2006),
MSDs cost society £5.7 billion annually (1995 prices).
For developing countries, the costs of increasing employee
accident reporting are exponential. Occupational health is
viewed as a relatively new field (Bedrikow et al., 1997).
There are few professionals relative to the number of organizations
needing their expertise, so employing or training a specialist
specifically for an organization can be deemed an unnecessary or
unreasonable expense (Ong et al., 1993; Ahasan & Partanen,
2001). Risk assessment requires at least some rudimentary
training and, given the limited research available regarding
workplace health and safety in developing countries, can be
difficult to complete depending on the industry or workplace.
Because of the limited financial resources of organizations in
developing countries, the costs of new safety and personal
protective equipment, which do not increase revenue, must be
weighed against those of new machinery and supplies, which do
increase revenue. Furthermore, the cost of equipment may be
higher because it must be imported from developed countries.
Therefore, organizations may be less likely to purchase safety
equipment, which can demonstrate that management is not committed
to safety and weaken the safety climate of the workplace (Varonen
& Mattile, 2000).
Employee reporting of accidents and near misses is an often
neglected aspect of occupational health and safety. Although
it affects individuals, organizations, and society, accident
reporting can also be symptomatic of an organization's safety
climate and culture or, as in the case of developing countries,
other concerns plaguing the society.