HSE under pressure to investigate work-linked suicides

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HSE must investigate work-related suicides and ensure they are subject to the same requirements for reporting and prevention as other occupational deaths.

In an article titled Ofsted: a case of negligence written for the British Medical Journal, two professors argue that unlike other countries including France, Britain excludes even the reporting of workplace suicides to HSE.

“In the UK we do not even know with certainty how many teachers have killed themselves in circumstances linked to Ofsted inspections, but we are aware of at least eight others,” write Sarah Waters, professor of French studies and Martin McKee, professor of European public health.
Primary school headteacher, Ruth Perry, killed herself in January while awaiting the outcome of an Ofsted report.

78 per cent of the 3,082 teachers surveyed by the Teacher Wellbeing Index in 2022 have reported mental health symptoms that they attributed to their work. Photograph: iStock

Her death prompted an outpouring of anger from teachers who are widely reported to be suffering from extreme stress. 78 per cent of the 3,082 teachers surveyed by the Teacher Wellbeing Index in 2022 have reported mental health symptoms that they attributed to their work.
A further 59 per cent have considered leaving teaching because of poor mental health.

The BMJ piece comes as several unions have lent their voice to the demands for HSE to intervene on work-linked suicides.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), Unison, Unite the union, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the teaching unions, all said there should be a change in the law.

Writing for the Guardian, TUC’s health and safety officer, Shelly Asquith, said: “It is vital that work-related suicides are reported and investigated by the HSE.

“The tragic case of Ruth Perry is not an isolated one. Ofsted has been cited several times by inquests into educators’ deaths. Work-related stress is at epidemic levels. We cannot turn a blind eye to it.”

In the UK, HSE cannot investigate any work-related suicide unless it receives a referral by a coroner.

A spokesman for HSE said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who knew Ruth Perry. A coroner can refer a case to HSE if they consider there is an ongoing risk to others.”


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