There are several reasons why health and safety matters in the workplace. In fact, maintaining a healthy and safe working environment is mandatory under UK regulations. Any companies that fail to comply potentially face prosecution. Protecting the wellbeing of employees, visitors and customers, as well as being the ethical, right thing to do, is also good for business. On the flip side, companies that neglect their duties risk the prospect of:
● Loss of staff
● Increased costs
● Loss of profits
The financial cost of accidents
The whole issue of health and safety regulation may come across as meddlesome and over protective to some people. We have all heard stories of health and safety gone mad. However, regulations are there to minimise risk and have the interests of the organisation and its people at heart. Health and safety at work has a positive role to play and should be embraced by any organisation, as it brings many welfare and financial benefits including:
1. Protecting people from injury
You'll likely retain loyal and highly skilled staff if your company can prevent work-related injuries like:
● Back pain
● Repetitive strain
● Slips and trips
● Falling from heights
● Vehicle accidents
● Aches, pains, and stresses due to computer use and incorrect posture
Your organisation will be seen in a positive light if it helps to prevent health issues like:
● Noise and vibration side effects
● Skin disease related to working with irritant materials
● Poisoning from exposure to asbestos
2. Increase or maintain productivity and profits
A safe environment results in healthy and contented employees. This has a knock on effect in boosting staff morale, increasing productivity, and lowering costs.
3. Lower insurance and legal costs
Any accidents and sickness in the workplace can increase your insurance premiums. Also, employees getting injured at work could make your organisation subject to lawsuits. Other indirect costs may include:
● Sick pay
● Production delay
● Cost of repairs
4. Fewer people being absent or taking sick leave
Healthy employees rarely get absent from work or take sick leave. As a result, an organisation can save on costs with regards to absent employees.
5. Staff retention
If your staff are not repeatedly reporting sick or getting injured from work-related accidents, your company can save time and costs that would otherwise come from recruiting and training new staff.
Furthermore, any organisations that maintain a healthy and safe workplace can benefit from good public relations resulting in more leads and sales.
Your health and safety responsibilities
UK Law and Regulations In Britain, the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act covers all employers, self-employed, and government offices. This law makes employers responsible for their employees' protection. Meanwhile, company staff have the duty to tell their employer about any health and safety issues they face.
The Act introduced three important points:
1. Employees who meet accidents at work may sue their employer to obtain compensation. Under this law, it's also now possible to classify some accidents as criminal negligence. So the state can now make erring organisations subject to criminal proceedings.
2. Once a workplace accident occurs, the organisation needs to prove that reasonable care was taken to avoid the accident. The burden of proof is now up to the organisation, not the injured employee.
3. The law also allows the state to enter the company premises and inspect the workplace. If necessary, they can also serve notice once they see any dangerous work practices. An inspector will often discuss the working conditions with the health and safety officer. If both can't agree on a compromise, the inspector may serve an improvement or prohibition notice.
As a result of this law, it's now common for organisations to have their own health and safety officer, manager, or engineer. If you're interested in a new position in health and safety or are thinking about embarking on a career in this sector, contact the team at Principal People for advice.
How to promote a healthy and safe working environment
Health and safety officers will need to: ● Keep the workplace as safe and healthy as possible
● Keep dust, smoke, fumes and noise to a minimum
● Implement safety work protocols and ensure that staff follow them
● Check if the machinery and equipment are compliant to safety standards
● Ensure that employees have been properly trained to use equipment
● Ensure that materials are stored according to company regulations
● Create or enforce a health and safety policy, which all employees should know and follow
● Check that protective clothing is issued to employees
● Eliminate any potential health risks from the workplace, like smoking or unnecessary stress
● Make sure that the workplace has first aid stations
● Consult with safety representatives appointed by recognised trade unions
Likewise, employees also have the responsibilities of:
● Taking reasonable care of their health and safety including safeguarding their co-workers and visitors
● Co-operating with the company regarding the use of protective clothing
● Not interfering with health and safety equipment provided for the staff (eg, first aid boxes or fire extinguishers)
It's in the best interests of an organisation to keep their working environment healthy and safe. By doing so it can save on costs due to absenteeism and sickness and injury and avoid legal costs. In addition, projecting a positive view of health and safety and taking an active lead will be attractive to new clients and employees. That's great for increasing sales, of course. So, rather than view health and safety as a tick-boxing exercise, every organisation can gain positives from it.
Author bio: Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specialising in Health, Safety, and Environment. He's also the COO of the Juhler Group of Companies, which operates in 40 locations across Europe and Asia.