Health and safety in surface engineering

A significant feature of the surface engineering industry (SE) is the diversity of the technology.

Most of the surface engineering companies in the UK industry operate in the sub-contract sector; ie offering processing techniques to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The majority are small companies employing less than 50 people and specialize in specific processes.

A number of larger companies have their own 'in-house' processes finishing their own manufactured components. In total the whole engineering coatings industry is a big business accounting for over £10.8 billion of sales per annum (2010) and employing around 10,000 people in the UK.

HSE's contact with the industry is mainly through the Surface Engineering Association's Health Safety and Environment Committee which, for over 10 years, has co-ordinated the interests and activities of all those involved with health and safety in the industry.

Only 10 years ago, the industry had significantly higher accident rates (for fatal, major and 3-day injuries) than manufacturing as a whole. In the last 5 years in particular, the major accident rate for the SE industry is now (2010) similar to the manufacturing average. Similarly, for 'Over 3 day' injuries the rate for this industry has decreased substantially and now lies below the rate for manufacturing as a whole. There were no reported fatalities in SE between 2008 and 2010. [All these figures are from RIDDOR notifications of accidents within the Standard Industry Code 25610 for 'Treatment and coating of metals'.]

However, the Labour Force Survey carried out annually, still suggests that non-fatal accident rates are higher in surface engineering than manufacturing as a whole.

The actual figures for serious and less serious injuries will be much higher than those quoted due to considerable under reporting to the enforcing authorities.

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Updated: 2021-05-11