In our day-to-day implementation of a health and safety policy, it can be easy to forget why it is so essential. After all, the best health and safety management systems are rigorous and involve planning the policy itself, assessing risks, implementing controls, and reviewing and monitoring your policy to actually see if it is doing its job.
In particular, when things are running smoothly, we often forget our reasons for all the trouble. But then this is exactly when we tend to slip up – reviews and audits are put off, annual health and safety online training refreshers are forgotten, risk assessments and method statements skimmed over, and pre-use equipment checks skipped.
So, it’s vital that we take the time to remind ourselves why health and safety are important. The main reasons are legal, financial, and moral.
The Legal Argument for Health & Safety
Managing health and safety at work is not an optional activity. It is mandated by criminal law and any employer who fails to comply is exposed to very significant legal risks. Both at an organisational and individual level.
Directors and employees can and do go to prison for health and safety breaches, and significant fines are handed out.
Duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences in 2019/20 received fines totalling £35.8 million, which is an average penalty of around £110,000 per case resulting in conviction.
The Financial Argument for Health & Safety
Accidents and ill health at work are extremely expensive and represent a huge, often hidden, source of loss. Costs can be both direct and indirect. These financial losses might be covered by insurance or might be uninsured. Either way, affected employers will end up paying the full costs over time.
The direct ‘visible’ cost is just the tip of an iceberg, whereas most of the costs are hidden unless you look for them. Whilst some of these can be insured, there are numerous uninsured fees that are often difficult to accurately estimate.
The Moral Argument for Health & Safety
To be safe and healthy is the most fundamental right we all share. Unfortunately, many workers and members of the public are seriously injured or killed every year due to the activities of employers across a wide range of sectors.
As per HSE, in the 2018 to 2019 year, there were 147 fatal injuries at work, whilst 1.4 million workers suffered from work-related illnesses, and 581,000 sustained non-fatal injuries at work.
To put this into context, the UK averages two fatal accidents at work every three days – not including work-related traffic accidents, and every year around 25,000 people leave the workforce permanently, because of harm that has occurred at work.
Consider that behind each of these individuals, there’s a worker, a family, a team, and an organisation that were all impacted.
Don’t believe that the majority of these accidents are just the cost of doing business. The fact is, much of this could have been prevented. According to the HSE, some 70% of incidents at work could be prevented by good management.