Why is Health & Safety
Good for Business
Health & Safety can often be seen as a bureaucratic waste of time and money which has no real benefit to a commercial undertaking or those who work within it. Health & Safety practitioners are often described as 'anoraks' (and that's the polite version) who's sole intent is to create misery, paperwork and silly rules.
The truth is that some Health & Safety practitioners can over complicate matters and many are not qualified to Government suggested standards. Such practitioners give the rest of the industry a bad reputation and help fuel the myths that feed the 'elf n safety monster'. The secret to good health and safety is a proportionate approach relative to the risks that people face as part of day to day working life. For example the risks on a building site or in a factory will be far greater than those in an office and hence the level of action required to protect those who work within such sectors will also be different.
Good, effective, Health & Safety is not about wrapping people in cotton wool. There is risk inherent in life. Good Health & Safety practice understands where risk levels are acceptable and where they are not. Then rather than just banning everything that carries a higher risk level, it looks at sensible solutions to reduce that level of risk down to an acceptable level.
The fact is that Health & Safety in the workplace IS important and a practical and pragmatic approach to health & safety is good for business; and (as well as saving lives) can save time, costs and increase productivity; and here are some of the reasons why:
- According to official HSE figures, in 2011-12, 173 people died through workplace accidents, and 1.1 million people were injured. How much time and money (and heartache) could have been save if these figures were lower?
- 27 million working days were lost overall. 22.7 million due to work-related ill health and 4.3 million due to workplace injury. The HSE estimate the total cost associated with workplace injuries and ill health in Great Britain during 2010/11 was £13.4 billion.
- And from a liability point of view, no business wants to be defending a civil claim for breaches of health & safety, individuals do not want to be facing criminal charges such as killing by Gross Negligence and the Company itself does not want to be facing Corporate Manslaughter and other criminal charges / fines.
A positive approach to health & safety can also boost morale, ensure that the Company complies with the law, increase productivity and produce efficiencies. Something as 'silly' as making sure your employees are correctly seated in front of their PC can reduce absence (for the bad back, RSI or headaches) and increase output (as well as making sure you meet your legal obligations!).
Employees can also be 'stressed-out' by simple things that can easily be addressed and resolved. For example, giving clarity around a job role and giving some autonomy in a role can have an amazingly positive impact and reduce an individual's stress. It also frees up management time!
The better we feel physically (and mentally) in ourselves - the better we can perform at work - so health and safety - and general wellbeing - is GOOD for business.
So where do you go from here.
How does a business effectively and proportionately manage health and safety?
The first step is to see where you are against statutory requirements and associated best practices. This can be done by having a Health & Safety Audit carried out by a Chartered Safety Practitioner. Rather than just pointing out what you are not doing, the Audit will produce a meaningful action plan. The action plan will identify issues based upon the levels of associated risk - so you can deal with the priorities (highest risk areas) first. An Audit will help ensure you are compliant so you are meeting your legal obligations. One fact which no one can escape is that when it comes to the Health & Safety legal system, you cannot use ignorance as a defence. An employer has a duty to understand which pieces of legislation apply to their business and if they are meeting them or not.
Then you can look further - if you want to...
You can look at overall wellbeing, analyse your absence and reasons for absence, review job roles, ask employees what they need to be able to do their job even better...
Health & Safety should not be a hindrance to business. It should not be about red tape and silly rules. It should not be about poorly qualified practitioners asking Companies to spend huge amounts of time and money, with little to no benefit. A good management system and a proportionate approach will support the business needs and help improve overall business (and individual) wellbeing. In short, a proactive, pragmatic approach to Health & Safety protects the business, it protects the people within the business and it protects the people who own / run the business.
It is all pretty simple really, as long as you get the right advice from sensible people - no anoraks allowed!