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The tortoise and the hare

   The tortoise and the hare

The daily conversation about data, leading and lagging indicators is constant in the world of accident prevention and rightly so.

I write this on the day that the HSE publish their annual figures for work related fatal injuries for 2018/19. The numbers are there - 40 workers falling from height, 30 struck by a moving vehicle and 16 struck by a moving object. The new figures also highlight the risks to older workers 25 per cent of fatal injuries in the over 60s yet they only make up 10 per cent of the workforce. They are our lagging indicators. Lives lost whilst at work, the empty chairs at tables.

Behind each number is a person and that is my challenge, the accident causes remain unchanged yet we know how to prevent them. This is a pattern flowing through RoSPA’s whole-person whole-life approach to prevention. Accidents are a leading preventable cause of death, serious injury and long-term disability, which devastate individuals, families, communities and businesses, placing a huge burden on our health and social care system, and on society as a whole.

So where do the tortoise and the hare fit in? With the school holidays on the horizon (or already here in you are in Scotland) here’s a story: Fed up of being teased by the hare the slow moving tortoise challenges him to a race. No surprises in that the hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and is so confident of winning that he stops for a rest. When he wakes up he finds out that the tortoise has made steady progress and has arrived at the finish line before him.

Whilst there is an element of slow and steady wins the race in accident prevention, we also need our leading indicators, whole system thinking towards a step-change in accident prevention throughout a person’s life.
This type of thinking has resulted in  Safe and active at all ages: a national strategy to prevent serious accidental injuries in England, a ground-breaking document, that quantifies and addresses the different safety challenges faced across the whole of life, including:
  • Active travel
  • Wider health factors
  • Falls at all ages
  • Home safety
  • Road leisure and risk
The strategy advocates a public health approach to accident prevention, and presents a set of ‘leading indicators’ showing how action by a wide range of local and national players, could deliver reductions in accident rates, and associated injury burden.

Importantly, it recognises the links between accident prevention and other issues on the public health agenda, such as disadvantage, and highlights how programmes that seek to reduce accidental injury, can also support healthy activity and other indicators of wellbeing.

RoSPA is actively seeking commitment and action on the strategy recommendations. If you want to get involved or contribute to the strategy’s delivery, email us on [email protected]. For more about the strategy visit

Dr Karen McDonnell, CFIOSH, Chartered FCIPD, MRSB, PIEMA, MSP
Head of RoSPA Scotland, RoSPA OHS Policy Adviser
Posted: 7/3/2019 2:13:20 PM 0 comments


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