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June 10, 2008

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Proactivity on safety could be profitable

Academics at Loughborough University found that organisations with a proactive approach to health and safety management reported a 25 per-cent-higher profit margin than in organisations that weren’t proactive. They also found that organisations adopting a proactive approach reported 50-per-cent-lower accident rates and days lost too.

Professor Cheryl Haslam, who led the research team, said: “These findings indicate that adopting a proactive approach to health and safety management really does pay. Companies that take a positive approach to health and safety, rather than merely complying with the law, are more likely to be profitable and safer. We also found that people working in more proactive organisations were more committed and satisfied with their job, which in turn was linked to better health and wellbeing’.

“More research is still needed in this area to be able to say for certain that these findings are reflective of the true picture. But what this study does show is a possible link between a positive, proactive approach and better profitability and safety in the workplace.”

Prof Haslam and her team looked at 31 organisations as part of their study from a range of industry sectors, they interviewed 78 senior managers or board members and surveyed 2,067 staff members to get organisation and staff views on health and safety.

They also found that organisational records showed that sickness absence levels per employee were twice as high in large organisations than in small and medium-sized enterprises. At the same time, they found that people in large organisations reported half the work-related illness of those in small and medium size organisations.

This contradiction, the researchers concluded, was due to the fact many large organisations provide wide-ranging sickness management policies. Smaller organisations are less likely to have such policies, encouraging staff to come to work when they might otherwise stay at home. This could lead to an increase in staff reporting work-related ill-health but also a cut in the level of sickness absence.

The researchers also found that public sector workers were twice as likely to report themselves ill as workers in the private sector, with 12 per cent of private sector staff and 22 per cent of public sector staff reporting that they have illness, disability, physical or mental health problem caused or made worse by work.

Copies of the full report ‘The impact of health and safety management – on organisations and their staff’ can now be purchased from IOSH, priced £35. Please contact Andrea Alexander.

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