Why your business should take health & safety seriously Feb 11, 2019Views: 42
It’s 2019, and it might surprise you to learn that we still have to convince some people to take health & safety seriously. Some businesses think they are simply too small to have to worry about it, or think that their workplace doesn’t harbour any risks just because they aren’t working with power tools. Others feel that the whole thing is unnecessary or burdensome, wheeling out familiar catchphrases about health & safety gone mad or the ‘PC police’.
A quick look at the statistics for work related injuries and deaths will tell you a different story. Health & safety rules are there to keep us safe, and they work really well - but there are always improvements to be made. What many people still don’t realise is just how easy these improvements are to make, and the real benefits they can have on your culture and your bottom line.
It makes financial sense
Things like training, equipment and routine maintenance can sometimes be seen as a financial burden. If you believe that people can keep themselves safe, then these investments can seem more like sunk costs, which some would rather spend on improving their business. There’s also a frustration that spending money on health & safety doesn’t seem to bring tangible benefits, as the outcome is that nothing bad happens, rather than something good.
This is a misunderstanding of how health & safety works. While it should be fairly easy to argue that the greatest benefit is the safety of your employees - something that well implemented health & safety does provide - many business owners fail to appreciate that it’s also an investment for the future. The money you spend on implementing safety policies and practices is an investment in the future of your business and your workers, keeping both safe from harm.
Keeping ahead of safety legislation will instil confidence in your workforce, improving their morale and impetus to work. It can also make your business more attractive to prospective employees, as well as reducing the chance of illness and injury, and therefore absences. Training can also give you a deeper insight into your workforce and their needs, build a rapport and understanding between them, and improve their skill sets and job satisfaction.
Of course, it will also protect you from the financial penalties when things go slightly awry. While we don’t like to deploy scare tactics here at SAMS, keeping people safe will prevent the HSE from bringing its hammer down on you, and imposing penalties of thousands or even millions for serious breaches of safety guidelines. And remember: every other business is held to the same standards. You either join the club and reap the rewards, or risk losing it all for your oversight.
You have a moral responsibility
Many people’s rationale when they choose to overlook health & safety concerns - or not implement policies to prevent them - is simply that nothing bad will ever happen. They rely on their past experience doing the same job and not getting injured, or on the ‘common sense’ of their employees to avoid risks. Yet accidents can and do happen all the time, in all sorts of different settings, and they can both cost and ruin lives.
If you fail to take health & safety seriously, then you aren’t taking the lives and livelihoods of your employees seriously. This thoughtlessness reflects poorly on your business from inside and out. Employees who notice these oversights will be less inclined to work hard for you, and less inclined to stay. They may even have to impair their ability to do the job by taking things more slowly, and improvising a method that keeps them safer.
Of course, we shouldn’t have to tell you that human lives have value; we hope you’re perfectly aware of that already! Most business owners wouldn’t deliberately risk the lives of their employees. But if you fail to not just consider health & safety but to prioritise, you’ve failed in your moral responsibilities. If you don’t do your absolute utmost to prevent injuries and accidents from occurring, it will be on your record and your conscience.
It’s a legal requirement
If all else fails in our attempts to win people over to health & safety, the reminder that this is all required by law tends to do the trick. This can cause the more contentious types to moan and grumble, but the fact is that the laws are there for a reason, and they do what they say on the tin. Compliance is not as difficult or as costly as some people think, and the benefits go beyond keeping the inspectors off your back.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes straightforward guidelines on health & safety compliance. While following these isn’t necessarily enough to cover all the bases, it will give you a solid overview of your responsibilities in various areas. It won’t tell you every step you need to take in a risk assessment, for example, but it will tell you when you need to undertake one, and a rough outline of the process.
Fail to apply these guidelines and you risk falling foul of the law. In the event of any accident, you must be able to demonstrate a formal process for identifying, addressing and eliminating risk factors, such that you couldn’t have done anything more to stop the accident from happening. Any oversight that’s considered as unreasonable - in other words, anything that happens and is judged to be preventable - could lead to a significant fine.
In short, the idea that ignoring health & safety is fine as long as you get away with it is no different to any other kind of lawbreaking. Not looking after the safety of your employees is not legal, and not excusable under any circumstances. If you haven’t taken pains to provide safety equipment, training and guidelines in your workplace and something happens, you will rightly be penalised for it. Do things the right way, and you can set the standard for others to follow.
Lee Sadd is the Operations & Training Director at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
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