The Importance of Health and Safety in the Workplace

Health and Safety is a familiar concept to everyone in the UK.  But for business owners and managers, especially those with high numbers of employees or customers or those engaged in more hazardous industries, the importance of proper H&S policies and practices, as well as ongoing training and improvements, cannot be overstated.

“Mr Health and Safety Wouldn’t Approve”

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 31.7 million days were lost to work-related illness or injury in 2017-18, at an estimated cost to the UK economy of £15 billion.  [Source: http://hse.gov.uk/statistics/]

The concept of “health and safety” has become engrained in our national consciousness, and these days H&S is frequently the butt of jokes about training courses on how to lift boxes or wash our hands correctly.  “Mr Health and Safety wouldn’t approve” has become a common refrain in workplaces up and down the land.

But for UK businesses, health and safety is no laughing matter.  Of course, it goes without saying that the workplace should be a safe environment where employees can do their jobs without the fear of injury or worse.

UK H&S regulations have been in place since 1974

Health and Safety regulations in the UK are derived from the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA), which sets out the duties of employers concerning the wellbeing of their employees.  I’ll be honest, it’s a tough read, but if you’re interested, here is the full Act in all its glory: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37.

In a nutshell, HASAWA essentially states that employers must protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees while they are at work.  This obligation to protect also extends to anyone else who may be on an employer’s premises, including temporary staff, casual workers, general visitors to the site, and the general public.

The HSE has powers to enforce these employer obligations, and it can issue penalties for those who do not conform or properly comply with the regulations.

How to improve your Health and Safety Practices

Unfortunately, accidents and even deaths do sometimes occur while employees are on the job.  And for businesses which are involved in higher risk sectors, for example those in manufacturing or dealing with heavy machinery, construction, hazardous materials or substances, or working at height, health and safety obligations should form a significant part of their daily focus and priorities.

It’s also crucial for business that operate large buildings or facilities such as shopping malls, business parks, sporting facilities and so on.  For these businesses it’s not only employees that are at risk, but also significant numbers of customers.

Thankfully, there are many ways through which businesses can reduce the risk of workplace accidents and injuries through the implementation of various safety plans.  The benefits of these plans go above and beyond simply preventing accidents, though of course that is important in and of itself.

But there are other commercial reasons why companies should invest in a good safety plan for themselves and their employees.

1. It’s just the right thing to do

By taking health and safety obligations seriously and investing in ongoing safety programs, training and improvements, you will demonstrate to your employees how important their safety is to you.

As a result, you gain more employee loyalty.  Let’s face it, why should anyone respect an employer who doesn’t show any interest in their people’s safety, or who doesn’t care that their workers operate in an unsafe environment day after day?

So if we can agree that fostering employee loyalty is a good thing, then it’s easy to see how caring about the overall safety and wellbeing of your employees provides benefits both to employees and to the company.

It’s hardly controversial to say that providing your employees with a safe work environment is simply the right thing to do.  Your employees have families they are providing for and so cannot afford to miss work due to illness or an injury. And of course, that’s saying nothing about the impact a serious workplace accident or even death would have on your employees’ families.

2. Financial Benefits

As a business owner or manager, you will likely view every element of your business as either an asset or a liability.  It’s either black or white, good or bad, profitable or unprofitable. After all, the objective of almost every business is to make money.

The good news is that focusing on health and safety and implementing enhanced workplace safety actually improves your bottom line.  The lower your business’s injury rate, the higher your profit margin.

Why?  Statistics show that companies that implement effective health and safety programs in their workplace environments can expect a reduction in their company’s illness and injury rate of up to 40%.

On the other hand, if your business experiences several accidents throughout the year, you will likely see a spike in insurance costs and potentially legal fees as you face litigation claims from aggrieved employees.  This is definitely a bigger issue for UK businesses than ever before, as we become an increasingly litigious country with an army of “no-win-no-fee” lawyers ready to take on cases.

3. Customer Loyalty

It’s not just your employees and your business that are affected by health and safety.  Your customers are another important consideration.

If your employees are injured at work as a result of unsafe conditions, it may affect your ability to service your customers effectively.  Work-related injuries can lead to days or even weeks or months off work, and this may mean that you cannot deliver your products or services to your customers in a way that meets their expectations.

This can never be a good thing, and you may lose business as a result.  Don’t forget, the customer is king, and your customers cannot be expected to simply wait for their orders or even simply do without.

Consider using dedicated health and safety management software

These days there is a software app for everything, and health and safety is no exception.  Here at Unity Group, we’ve just partnered with a software company called CRAMS.

CRAMS is an online tool to help you manage your Health and Safety at work obligations.  It’s simple to use, yet provides all the functionality you need in order to manage and control all of the H&S risks within your organisation.  

In short, a H&S management app can help you to keep your workers safe and to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries within your business, not to mention lower the risk of heavy fines or even prosecution.

And finally…

Through proper workplace safety analysis and planning, you can pinpoint H&S areas that might need special attention in your business that may affect your employees’ safety and wellbeing.  

As we’ve seen, the importance of workplace safety cannot be overstated.  Therefore, the sooner you begin creating a safer work environment for your business and your employees, the better.