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UK faces safety ‘brain drain’, new report says

07 October 2022

New research into the state of safety in UK workplaces has found that despite Covid serving as a catalyst for health & safety improvements, offering ‘unprecedented’ opportunity for businesses to create a lasting health and safety legacy, businesses expressed concerns about a major industrial disaster amidst safety ‘brain drain’ as older, experienced workers leave the workplace.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The 2022 ‘Safety at Work’ report published by Draeger highlights some positive trends in safety, but also reveals the significant threats facing industry. Among the positives were that the majority of British workers (52%) feel safer at work than they did a year ago, with the top three reasons for this being:

- ‘My business is taking safety more seriously’ – 67%

- ‘Safety training at my workplace following Covid’ – 54%

- ‘My company is spending more money on workplace safety than before’ – 33%

However, the research also highlighted the safety ‘brain drain’ where, amidst record employment flux, the leading reason for people feeling less safe at work was the loss of older, more experienced workers from the workforce (32%). Of the respondents in the report, 37% stated there needs to be more effort made to make sure that experience is handed down to the next generation of workers. Furthermore, younger people (25-34 year olds) feel the least safe of any age group, with almost one in five (18%) saying they feel increasingly less safe at work. 

The report also highlights workers’ concerns about a major industrial disaster on the scale of Buncefield or Piper Alpha. More than half (55%) of managers have concerns about such an incident happening in the next five years.

There is also concern surrounding supply chain issues with four in ten managers stating that the current supply chain problems posed the most significant current threat to workplace safety, due to lack of availability of parts such as sensors and semiconductors.

Matthew Bedford Managing Director, Draeger Safety UK said: “Our 2022 research shows that 77% of British workers feel that workplace safety is more important as a business priority than it was a year ago.

“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 & 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 & safety in businesses in years to come.”

The independent research was carried out online and there were 1203 quantitative interviews undertaken, of which 253 were with managers. The sectors covered were Oil and Gas, New Energy / Renewables, Manufacturing / Construction / Engineering / Industrial, and Utilities.

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