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June 18, 2015

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SHE 2015: A business case for health culture

At the Safety & Health Expo yesterday afternoon, Karen Baxter echoed Steve Perkins’ talk from Tuesday, arguing again that health needs to be treated more like safety if workers are to be protected.

Baxter, managing partner for Park Health and Safety Partnership, pioneered the 3Ws programme during the 2012 London Olympics.

While the cost benefits of a good safety programme are well accepted throughout organisations, the case for good health has not always been so easily made. Part of the issue is that what safety means is fairly straightforward – it’s a vision of no fatalities or life changing accidents. Finding an equivalent for health can be difficult. Due to the long latency of most occupational health problems it can be difficult to get businesses to invest. Any fatalities there may be occur too far down the road.

However, Baxter outlined why health can be good for business and set out examples of companies who have made health a priority – and benefitted from it. Good occupational health management helps with productivity, morale, and a sustainable skilled workforce. It reduces sickness, lost time, and insurance.

Part of the battle can be getting directors and managers on board with a health culture. Baxter said a way to do this is by putting forward both a business and a moral case, calculating the costs if things continue as ‘business as usual’. Healthy is more deliverable and cost efficient. Healthy also builds teams and adds value.

Baxter concluded by reiterating the need to seize opportunities to eliminate health hazards in the workplace and take action to mitigate risks. She also stressed the need to use leadership activities to achieve healthy behaviour in the workplace. By empowering managers to feel confident in their abilities to talk about health, and sharing good practice while celebrating success, businesses can buy into a health culture, just as they have with safety.


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