Around 35,000 thousand NHS staff have been injured at work in recent years - including almost 10,000 reported incidents in NHS Glasgow and Clyde.
Across Scotland there were 35,372 reported injuries between 2011 and 2013, although figures dropped from over 12,400 a year to 10,529 in 2013.
Injuries include physical violence, assaults with a weapon, staff knocked unconscious, punctures with dirty needles and bites - including animal bites.
The injuries reported across Scotland also included incidents involving biohazards, electric shocks, burns, crushing injuries, injuries by flying or falling objects, scratches, lacerations, dislocated limbs, fractures, infections, contact with mucus, sprains, strains, slips, trips and falls.
Speaking on BBC Radio, UNISON Regional Organiser, Matt McLaughlin accepted that some of the increase would be due to better recording systems across the health board, but he went on to say that, “It’s not enough to report incidents, Health Boards must also understand why these injuries occur and they then must be made to take action to prevent it happening again. Where the injury is caused by a mechanical failure you would fix the machine, if the injury or incident could have been prevented by better staffing levels they should be forced to take that kind of action too.”
He also argued that politicians need to shoulder some of the blame saying that, “The Emergency Workers Act is clearly failing and politicians could do a lot to take specific action to extend the protections of the Act to other NHS workers”
Matt ended the interview by pointing out that the “NHS in Scotland is at maximum capacity, if you work any system at the maximum all of the time, accidents happen. Its time Boards and Politicians took notice.”
UNISON NHS Glasgow Clyde & CVS Branch believes health and safety in the workplace is an issue for everyone.
Every year, thousands of people suffer accidents and ill-health at work - most of which could be avoided.
Unions and health and safety laws save and protect lives. But many more could be protected from harm if health and safety laws were better enforced.
The branch has highly skilled Health and Safety Officers and over 50 trained health and safety contacts.
If you have a concern about health and safety speak to your local UNISON steward in the first instance.
UNISON has spoken out on the issue of violence to staff after a Freedom of Information Request by the Greenock Telegraph showed that less than 40 staff had reported violent incidents and assaults in the towns Inverclyde Royal Hospital.
Local UNISON Convenor Raymond O’Donaghue said. “UNISON continues to encourage staff to speak out and report incidents of violence in the workplace. The figures obtained by the Greenock Telegraph are the tip of the iceberg and its time NHS bosses took this issue seriously.”
Violent incidents include assault, verbal abuse and other actions which might fear or alarm to staff, UNISON has long campaigned for additional protections which apply to emergency workers to be extended to all NHS and public sector staff, but this has not yet been taken up by politicians. In the meantime the union continues to argue that violent incidents are under reported and that the NHS Datix system does not encourage or assist staff who feel that they want to make a report.
Branch Secretary Cathy Miller said, “Year on year staff surveys show that violence and aggression are major concerns for NHSGGC staff, year on year we are promised action and year on year NHS bosses fail to make any progress on this issue. The Datix system of reporting is a joke and most of our members gave up on it a long time ago. UNISON has been calling for it to be refreshed and updated so far our calls have fallen on deaf ears. It’s all good and well NHS bosses saying that they take this issue seriously, its time for us to see some hard action.”
UNISON is calling for renewed efforts after NHSGGC figures showed that the number of needle stick injuries had risen in 2013.
According to NHSGGC figures the average number of needle sticks per month in 2012 was 37, whilst the average number of needle sticks per month is 2013 rose to 40.
Branch Health and Safety Officer Tommy McWilliams has said, “Needle sticks are a preventable occurrence and there is no acceptable excuse for the number of needle sticks to have risen last year. UNISON has demanded that NHS bosses redouble their effort to investigate the reasons why needle sticks are still happening, if it’s training then we need to invest in training; if its equipment, then we need to ensure that equipment is safe; if it’s work practices, then we need to change the work practices.”
In 2013 there were 476 reported needle stick injuries with 52 related to administration of insulin.
UNISON Scotland's annual survey of violent incidents reported to public service employers shows continuing increases in the numbers of assaults on public sector staff in local government and the NHS, despite an overall fall in numbers, due to those given by the police service.
Our analysis of the figures received for 2013 shows a total figure of 33,689, a drop of 1,055 in the level of assaults compared with last year’s figures. This can partly be explained by an decrease of 3,074 in the number of assaults recorded for police officers and staff, following the merger into the new Police Scotland authority.
Over the year local government assaults have increased by 730 to 14,879, and in health there has been an increase of 1,744, from 10,974 in 2012 to 12,618, despite a fall the previous year.
Acting on behalf of a UNISON member – Thompsons Solicitores recently secured compensation despite for a member who was stuck by a needle – despite the risk to health being assessed as ‘low risk’.
The report from Thompsons read, “Your member sustained an injury during the course of her employment on 25 July 2011. She is employed by Greater Glasgow Health Board as a Home Carer. As she was attending a service user she sustained a needlestick injury to her left hand. Upon investigation we discovered the needle had been left by a District Nurse. We intimated a claim on your member’s behalf to the Health Board.
"The Solicitors acting on behalf of the Health Board initially refused to settle your member’s claim. They maintained that as the service user was well known to your member, your member would have been aware that there was a very low risk of injury. They argued that the injury sustained by your member was so minimal it did not warrant any compensation.
"Your member suffered anxiety following the incident as she was concerned she had contracted an infection. Your member also had to undergo blood tests to ensure she had not contracted any infection. We eventually managed to persuade the Solicitors acting on behalf of the Health Board to settle your member’s claim. We successful argued that your member developed anxiety following the incident. We obtained compensation in the sum of £1,250 for the injuries your member sustained.”
UNISON members are encouraged to follow ‘safe sharps’ procedures when working with needles or other sharp objects in the course of their work. If you are stuck by a needle or other sharp which was not safely disposed of you should :
· Tell your line manager
· Make sure that the injury is recorded
· Agree to – ask for the employer to undertake the necessary blood tests to check your health
· Raise a personal injury claim – by contacting your local steward.
UNISON NHS Glasgow Clyde and CVS Health and Safety Officer Tommy McWilliams is calling for greater focus on Health and Safety as Government cuts continue to bite deep. The call comes in advance of International Workers Memorial Day (28 April).
Tommy said, “International Workers’ Memorial Day takes place around the world every year on 28 April. As this date falls on a Saturday this year, many will also be marking the day at work during the preceding days.
"The slogan for the day is “Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living.” This year the day is all the more poignant because, as the spending cuts and government attacks continue, health and safety protection for our members at work is sure to get worse.”
UNISON Branch Secretary Cathy Miller has called a recent report from NHSGGC Health and Safety Department as a "Serious wake up call".
The document records all health and safety reports made by staff, patients and the public and amongst other things shows that 17% of all reports made by staff in the 'Acute' division related to concerns about staffing.
Cathy said, "UNISON has been complaining for some time that cuts in staff were begining to affect the delivery of services and the quality of care. In 12 months there were no less than 717 reports of short staffing - this is the tip of a massive iceberg and NHSGGC need to wake up, before there is a serious injury or patient fatality."
In the same report violence and agression against staff tops the league with 1187 reports being made within the 'Acute Division' and a further 1104 violent incidents reported by staff in Partnerships.
Blocked fire doors, damaged flooring and a backroom area which was badly infected with bird droppings were just some of the issues identified in a recent health and safety inspection at The Royal Alexandra Hospital Paisley. The inspection was organised by UNISON in response to a number of complaints from local members and took place on 16 May.
The union also found that some work areas were badly cluttered and that there was a general lack of storage space in the Accident and Emergency Area. Branch Health and Safety Officer, Tommy McWilliams stated, "The Clinical Waste / Waste Compactor Area is one of the worst conditions that I have seen an employee being asked to work in. Not only is the area dirty and smelly but also has serious infectious control issues. All of which have a detrimental effect on the employee's health safety and wellbeing, caused by the working environment they have to endure."
In response he demanded that the area is cleaned by a commercial company with measures taken to prevent the pigeons gaining access to the area with immediate effect.
Branch Secretary Cathy Miller led the inspection team in the Accident Emergency Area, she is concerned that workplace and staff health and safety will be affected by ongoing budget cuts. She said, "Its one thing to have committees and policies, but the measure of health and safety is the conditions our members have to work in. It is clear that basic maintenance at RAH has been cut back and that our members and patients are having to work in unacceptable conditions."'
In response to these concerns the union has promised to step up the number of workplace inspections across NHSGGC. Health and Safety Officer Tommy McWilliams said, "Over the next few months, UNISON will be carrying out a number of inspections to ensure that our members health and safety is not put at risk by cuts, lack of training and bad management systems."