We had a great interview with Bart Vanraes, a prevention advisor from Belgium. Bart is an expert in “tippex accidents” and did a significant amount of research into this topic.
A “tippex accident” is an accident that actually took place, but for various reasons, was not correctly reported or not reported at all. The name “tippex accidents” comes from the brand Tipp-Ex, the ink removing solution, which makes the wrong answer, or writing error no longer visible. Sometimes it won’t work to cover up or hide the accident, and it still comes to light somehow. Even when it comes to light, it will still be categorized as a “tippex accident.”
An accident is classified as a “tippex accident” as soon as the victims and/or the employers do not report the work accident or report it wrongfully on purpose. Reporting an accident incorrectly is when the victim minimizes the accident or the employer reports the accident but for certain reasons, it seems less serious. This problem is bigger than we think. In Belgium alone, it is estimated that there are 10,000 undeclared industrial accidents. The Dutch inspection suspects that between 30% and 50% of serious industrial accidents in the Netherlands are not reported.
One of the most striking examples can be found in Qatar. In 2022, the World Cup football will be organized in this country. In order to facilitate such an event, several stadiums, hotels and other facilities needs to be built. Many migrants work on these projects in order to earn a lot of money and to make sure it is all finished before the WC starts. Unfortunately, more than 1400 people have died during these construction projects until now. There are no figures as to whether this is still taking place, the number may therefore be even higher. The distressing work conditions are already worrying, but the fact that fatal accidents are concealed is just as worrying.
“If we have to request a minute’s silence for each estimated dead migrant when building the stadiums, we will play the first 44 games in silence.”
What Does This Mean for Companies?
Tippex accidents not only have serious consequences for the victims, but also for companies. Due to tippex accidents, employees get the feeling that statistics are more important than people. A direct consequence from this is having dissatisfied employees and it will increase tension and stress among the workers. Colleagues will work with fewer employees in a project, which means that the workload can increase.
Another byproduct from this type of behavior is that as honest employers, you are the victim of companies that do not report all accidents. Suppose you have had 8 accidents and reported this honestly, while your competitors have had 10 accidents, but only reported 1. You will then have the inspection bodies all over your facilities even though your competitor has had more accidents.
Also, the company cannot resolve issues, let alone prevent repetitions, if it is not aware of them. Not reporting accidents will prevent similar problems coming to light. This makes it difficult to detect, monitor or adjust problematic situations, therefore avoiding future accidents. The organization will lose a lot of important data for improvement.
Finally, companies that have been “Zero Accidents” for years become ‘lazy’. Proposals and difficult decisions to work on safety-related improvement projects are more difficult to take. After all, there is no sense of necessity or urgency, because it has been going well for years and the company is “industrial accident-free”.
Of course, tippex accidents are not only annoying for companies, but it is also not pleasant for the victim if their accident is scratched from the books!