The business case for taking health and safety seriously
When we talk about health and safety at work, with particular emphasis on understanding the importance of it, conversation quickly turns to the ‘human’ element behind it.
For instance, our thoughts are dominated by statistics like these (taken from the HSE website):
- 3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in 2014/2015
- 2,515 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2014)
- 144 workers killed at work in 2014/2015
- 72,702 other injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR in 2014/2015
- 621,000 injuries occurred at work in 2014/2015 according to the Labour Force Survey
While these statistics are unquestionably unsettling, and instantly demonstrate how important it is to take health and safety seriously, it’s not the only reason we should be giving the subject the attention it deserves.
Instead, there’s a very strong business case for holding health and safety in high regard. While the human story behind health and safety is by no means something organisations ignore, the business case is often the overriding factor in whether or not a business chooses to invest in risk assessment software and other crucial EHS solutions.
But what is this all-important ‘business case’? Well, it consists of a number of predominantly finance-orientated reasons for taking health and safety seriously…
It reduces the cost of lost time
When staff are injured or made ill as a result of the tasks they perform in the workplace, it’s inevitable the organisation will suffer due to staff absence. These costs may go largely unrecognised, but if your organisation is paying sick leave or compensation for workers who have suffered, as well as paying a wage for an employee to fill a position, they’re going to be spending a lot of money – something that could have been avoided.
It reduces the cost of insurance
Similarly, taking health and safety seriously reduces the cost of insurance. As this article by ROSPA explains, the Health and Safety Executive has estimated that the ratio between insured and uninsured costs arising from accidents is, worse case, 1:36. This means that for every £100 recovered from the insurer, the business loses £3,600. High insurance costs can be avoided if there are robust health and safety measures in place, reducing premiums for organisations of various sizes.
It reduces the cost of litigation and compensation
Businesses that don’t truly invest in promoting a health and safety culture or fail to use adequate tools might find themselves paying out after expensive litigation.
For instance, Balfour Beatty paid out £230,000 in fines and an additional £11,915 in costs in March after failing to properly install the first floor’s supporting joists at a construction site in Sheffield.
Also, the Burghley House Trust was fined £226,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,863 in February following the death of a butler after an examination showed the lift that had descended on him had not been fitted with a slack rope detector. Cases like these highlight the fact that taking health and safety seriously reduces the cost of litigation and compensation.
It strengthens the likelihood of a strong reputation
As you’ll have doubtless noticed having read the examples above, another strong part of the business case for taking health and safety seriously is the impact that failing to do so has on the reputation of an organisation.
Reputational damage is arguably more serious than any short-term financial repercussion, dissuading not only prospective employees, contractors or business associates to work with an organisation, but also making the public hesitant about investing in the products and services a business sells.
It increases the likelihood of winning bids for major projects
A final factor of the business case for taking health and safety seriously is the fact that doing so actually makes organisations more attractive in the business world. Maintaining a high level of competence and reliability where health and safety is concerned can mean that organisations retain their place on a tender list, and if a strong health and safety record can be attested to by third parties, it can even result in being invited to tender for big contracts and perhaps be a decisive factor in securing them.
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