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Top Ten Health and Safety Risk

Don Shotter 5 years ago   Reply

As an NVQ assessor  I wondering if anyone can help me find the Top Ten Health and safety Risk this has recently change in unit QCF641 where they are asked to list the above  and can find the the Top Five Health Risk  looking at a (tool ) guidance   but not the health and safety risks. I know this has been published


Bill Sowerbutts 5 years ago   Reply
How do you measure this – really?  The most frequent or the ones that cause the most fatalities or the most major injuries – this is the kind of spurious statistic that is meaningless “top ten” .  This is the trouble with health and safety generally – we try to make a behavioural science into a pure science.  For that I blame the QA boys and accreditors with their tick boxes – they all want neatness whatever the problem.

Stipulate top 10 by frequency, by sevserity of outcome, by man hours lost and I bet (some years anyway) you’ll get three different answers.



Kevin Fitzgibbon 5 years ago   Reply
Once again, a respondant has confused "helpful, intelligent, and polite conversations" with "personal view-point" as a preferrred response to a perfectly reasonable question about a specific NVQ unit - AND somehow managed to squeeze in yet another swipe at unmaned "accreditors" - a regular target of monotonous indignation.

While their regular posts might be (unitentionally) amusing to read, they have become somewhat intrusive - not to mention repetative & boorish - and while ignoring them might be the sensible option, they simply get in the way more worthwhile posts in an increasingly crowded inbox.

Can we respecfully agree that if forum members don't have something useful or constructive to add to a particular discussion thread they take a deep breath & just step away from the keyboard.

Andy Allan (structural Engineer, designer) 5 years ago   Reply

I am slightly surprised that Kevin's post was allowed by the moderator.

Bill and Liz have raised very pertinent, reasonable, and important points.  Abuse of statistics has bedevilled the Health and Safety regulatory field from the outset of CDM, and it is vitally important that the true picture is properly understood.

As an example of the mis-statement of statistics, the Government report "Underlying causes of construction fatal accidents" showed a chart that showed that about 70% of fatalities occurred on small sites.  The report wrongly concluded that small sites were more dangerous than large sites.  When the statistics were re-arranged to take account of the fact that the overwhelming  majority of construction work occurs on small sites, one gets the result that one is about five times more likely to be killed on a large site than a small one.

The HSE website at the link helpfully provided by Don Shotter states that the top ten behaviours identified were identified by HSE research.  Could anyone point to where this research report might be found?

Bill Sowerbutts 5 years ago   Reply
Sorry Kevin – for the enlightenment of us “boors”

How do you make the measurement of “Top ten” then?  By severity? fatalities?, majors?, by frequency?, by lost time (then do you mean 3 or 7 days)? by cause? by outcome? Would you class a common risk that produced a minor injury as the normal outcome higher up your ranking than a rarer risk that usually was fatal (such as a confined space).  

If you have a greater understanding than I do over what is meant by “top ten” then I defer to your better knowledge. 

I know that in my education I was always told to seek to define the question before proffering a solution to a problem, but maybe there is something here that you know and I don’t - and I am happy to defer to that knowledge.  It’s just the words “top ten” to me make no sort of sense outside of a tabloid heading unless we define what we mean.

But perhaps then there is a simple “tick box” solution which I am unaware of….

Bill Sowerbutts BA(Hons) CMIOSH FRSPH MIIRSM

Liz Bennett 5 years ago   Reply

Kevin, I am very sorry that you find some posts offensive. I infer that I am included. A pity.

I am absolutely serious about this. My point really is that the NVQ is wrong if it is teaching wrong material and that since you point out that it is a genuine NVQ it is presumablay being used to train a great many people in wrong thinking.

Probability definitions are GCSE maths that we have all forgotten (O- level in my case!) but that I have since taught. Mis use of it as a tool for the saving of lives seems to me deeply morally wrong.

I am asked for a definition of frequency but I am not sure in what context. It is used in different ways for different ends. In H&S it is often used to mean probability, in which case the definition is the same.

Falls from height is the most common way in which people die quickly in our industry (as opposed to the slow death of the many diseases we manage to mismanage). But just exactly what people are doing and why they need to be at height is a complex problem not sensibly dealt with by "Stop all falls from height". Almost every construction activity needs work at height so the numbers of safe work at height activities are stupendous.

Bill's life example is good. Perhaps an easier one to understand is hospitals.You are more likely to die in hospital than any other place. Clearly this does not mean ban hospitals. The territory is much more complex and needs to be dealth with as such.

Look at agriculture stats. Just under 50 deaths last year has been translated into one farmer dies every week. In fact agriculture includes forrestry, which also includes arboriculture, which is completely different. The same headlines are being used in each industry.

Yes we need data and yes that must sometimes be statistical data. But we need to understand its limitations.

Liz Bennett

Bill Sowerbutts 5 years ago   Reply
100% agreed -as a statistician who was a former market researcher- I know all about how to (ab)use statistics for my own ends to make a point!  And that is really what we are saying here. The number of deaths through confined spaces is small but in proportion to the numbers that are actually involved in such work are relatively high. So slips and trips hits the top ten but a job very few people do but which produces a far higher man-hour casualty rate does even get considered….

Human behaviour is in my experience a far more important factor in causing accidents than actual physical circumstances. That is why I cannot reconcile simple easy answer tick box safety with the reality of working life. This constant striving for easy answers simply is a search for the unobtainable alchemist’s cure. Life I am afraid and people are simply too complex to dismiss in such an easy manner.

That is why Kevin multiple choice CSCS tests, pre-qual tick box questionnaires and I am afraid, to a degree the NVQ process (and I have level 4 OSH so I’m knocking my own qualification here) are not enough for me to show true understanding of the issues involved. Simply because they want to over simplify them into trite responses.  Surely that does not help anyone?

So number one in my list of risks today is being born. People die in the process, nearly always sustain ill health and injury at some point in their lives and always there is a fatality at some point. But all this proves is that the activity that is most common is most likely to be the no 1 risky one, simply because most people do it.  So country walking is more risky than working with electricity?


Kevin Fitzgibbon 5 years ago   Reply
Thanks for your input.
I refer you to my previous post in this particular thread. 
Bill Sowerbutts 5 years ago   Reply
But Kevin

This is a serious point – If you take issue with me (as indicated by referring me to your previous reply which referred to Liz and I being unhelpful) – how do you define “top ten” – because honestly I don’t know.  I’m not trying to make any point except that I don’t understand what “top ten” means for any scientific basis of analysis.


Don Shotter 5 years ago   Reply

Thanks for the quick reply good to see there is someone else out looking on

Have been looking online and found the answer my guys need to look for as part of the QCF NVQ they are doing its base around this

thanks again


Liz Bennett 5 years ago   Reply

To add to the misery Top Ten by frequency maybe or Top Ten by probability? Not the same at all.

Probability of someone having an accident as a result of a fall from height is the number of accidents as a result of falls from height divided by the number of times people work at height and either have an accident or do not. It is very probable that work at height is statistically safe. It is just that so many of the things we do are not done exactly on the level and so are done at height. You may as well say that work is dangerous. Or indeed life is dangerous. It turns out you would be right on either count.

In other words, I agree with Bill!

Neither of us is much use in answering your question, though.

johnV 5 years ago   Reply

Hi Liz, having defined "probability" can you now suggest a definition for "frequency" using your fall-from-height example? Thanks, John


Bill Sowerbutts 5 years ago   Reply
Totally agree Liz – I’ve done my own statistical survey work – It turns out (after taking an awful lot of samples) that life is almost a100% fatal activity – Ban it at once!

(Almost? - well there are some doubts about a carpenter’s son from 2012+ years ago that need to be verified as there are many who claim he still lives -  and one or two other folks that have incarnated themselves from deity such as Zeus. But, all in all, these cases have no statistical significance in a sample taken for a 99% confidence interval).

So what this shows is how statistics can provide extremely misleading information – in that the more frequent the activity – the more frequent is likely to be any occurrence such as an injury resultant from that activity.  So unless the outcome is taken as a function of the man hours spent on the different activity and then weighted according to severity then any statistic to me seems utterly meaningless in terms of “top ten”.

PS fancy dismissing deity and the basis for one of the World’s leading religions as having “no statistical significance” – again just shows what you can do with statistical analysis.

PPS – Before anyone chimes in - yes it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but the serious point I hope is made.


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ireton george 4 years ago   Reply

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Julian Bonner 4 years ago   Reply
Don, I'm also an NVQ assessor, also with a qualification in H&S. I put the same question to my internal verifier from the CITB centre, we agreed that best practice would be to verbally question the candidate on hazards and risks involved in the industry and specific to his trade. We also came to the conclusion that as long as the candidate has a clear understanding of risks and hazards, statistics and league tables are not relevant. Regards Julian