Health and safety gets blamed for a lot of things that often seem over the top or just plain absurd. However, it is important to remember that health and safety laws and restrictions have been put in place to keep staff and customers safe, so it still needs to be a huge priority for every business. A failure to understand the importance of health and safety and or a lapse in judgement over it can have devastating consequences for all involved.
It is the law that all employees are entitled to work somewhere that controls their health and safety risks in order to keep them safe. Whilst no business sets out to deliberately harm their staff, a shocking 693,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury in 2019/20.
Many of these incidents do not just lead to a few days off work, they can be responsible for long-term consequences which are estimated to cost the UK economy billions. There are a vast number of reasons to keep your health and safety management at its peak at all times in order to benefit your business and the people within it.
One of the obvious ways that poor health and safety can impact on your business is through the financial cost of mistakes. It may be the case that an employee can bring a civil case against you after an accident in the workplace, leaving you with a hefty compensation bill as well as the cost of legal fees for your business, and for the employee if you are found to be negligent in your duty of care.
With an increase in accidents and injuries, you are also likely to see a rise in insurance premiums as you make claims against them. If you have a history of these claims, it will also make it much harder to shop around for liability insurance that does not carry a high price tag.
In the aftermath of an accident, most employees will need to take time off. This leaves you with sick pay to handle, as well as covering their role should it be needed. With the possibility of a reduced workforce, your productivity is likely to take a dive, hitting your bottom line where it hurts.
If it is found that you have not complied with your health and safety obligations, you or your business may be liable for prosecution, and deliberate malpractice can carry punishments which include unlimited fines and prison sentences. It may also be the case that your business is asked to cease working, causing huge damage.
No-one wants to see anything bad happen to a colleague, and so when it does, it can have a huge effect on the rest of the workforce. Morale within the business can start to drop and motivation is lost, creating a significant knock to productivity. If this mood is sustained, then it is likely that many staff members will drift away, leaving for employers with better reputations.
We all know that word gets out about these kinds of incidents, and it can colour how people look at your business. This might be thanks to the single injured party, or a larger section of the workforce who are displeased at how things are run. It can be difficult to manage this bashing of your reputation, and the results can hang around for years to come.
Keeping on top of your health and safety policies and ensuring that they are properly enforced might seem like additional red tape that you do not need, but it is vitally important. The costs for both the business and its employees can be huge if health and safety is not fully adhered to, so it is never a risk that is actually worth taking.
This article was contributed by Peter Watson, Director at Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants. Watson & Watson are experienced health and safety consultants, providing health, safety and risk management solutions throughout the UK.