By Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's biggest listed companies are routinely under-reporting workplace injuries and fatalities to investors, a report by corporate governance advisory firm PIRC said on Thursday.
PIRC, which advises investors with a combined 1.5 trillion pounds ($1.9 trillion) in assets, said it had uncovered "worrying gaps" after checking annual reports from companies in the FTSE 350 against Health and Safety Executive (HSE) data.
As well as failing to report safety violations to investors, the analysis also pointed to a lack of consistency in the metrics used to assess safety breaches, and a failure to include those impacting casual workers.
“Safeguarding and improving the health and safety of the workforce – whatever the nature of the employment relationship – is both one of companies’ most important duties and one of the most significant positive impacts they can have," said PIRC Labour Specialist Alice Martin.
"But current reporting has both huge gaps and lacks comparability. Contingent workers are invisible to all intents and purposes in some companies’ reporting, even where businesses are heavily reliant on their labour."
A total of 228 HSE enforcement notices were served at 116 listed companies for occupational safety breaches in UK operations between 2016 and 2021, PIRC said.
Of the 57 companies to get one since 2019, just 30 had listed occupational safety as a "principal risk" in their company reporting. Only 19, meanwhile, shared data on incidents involving casual workers.
The analysis found 60% of the FTSE 350 companies disclosed some information in their annual report, but the methods used varied, with most companies self-selecting one or two metrics from a list of over 40.
Going forward, PIRC said it planned to launch a series of engagements with companies over the issue, and would also make its dataset available to investors to help inform their voting and engagement efforts.
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(Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Mark Potter)