A MASSIVE drop in the volume of workplace accidents at Clacks Council is likely due to underreporting, councillors heard last week.

An annual health and safety report to the Audit Committee revealed a “significant reduction” in the number of incidents reported by staff, just 187 in 2018-19 compared to 359 the year before.

Officers presenting the figures outlined in their paper that the 48 per cent drop, which could be seen across all services, “is possibly due to under reporting [sic.] rather than a significant increase in the safety culture in the organisation, as the nature of incidents reported remains similar”.

What also remained largely the same was the number of serious accidents that must be reported to the Health and Safety Executive by law, with 16 such incidents in 2018-19 and 14 the year before.

When asked by Councillor Helen Lewis, officers explained they had become aware of “serious issues” regarding underreporting and are campaigning to explain to staff why reporting incidents big and small is important.

The chamber also heard that only “limited assurance” can be provided on uniform compliance across the local authority, the biggest employer in the area with more than 2,000 staff.

The health and safety team is working to address the issue, the report detailing how 14 policies were developed last year to build a strong management system while officers carried out 61 audits to build a compliance picture.

At the same time a sharp rise in stress risk assessments, which assist managers in identifying sources and control measures, was also noted with the numbers jumping from 40 the year before to 70.

A mental health policy, approved during the financial year put under the microscope, was also approved with hopes the number of individual assessments will go down, “but more importantly should also see a decrease in the level of absence from work related stress” – added the documents.

This is important as the council has seen some of Scotland’s highest staff absence rates.

The paper tabled last Thursday, June 20, said: “A total of 2517 training activities were undertaken during the year.

“However, the sharp drop in incident reporting and the rise in stress risk assessments suggest that there are still issues which require to be addressed to ensure that health and safety culture is embedded across the organisation.”