One of the biggest threats to workplace Health and Safety in this country is apathy. It’s not fair to say, in the majority of cases, that company bosses and managers don’t care about the safety of their workforces and subcontractors however, all too often health and safety matters are left to slide.
When bosses are busy managing their day-to-day workload, cashflow and pressing HR issues the temptation to let other matters, like health and safety, take a back seat is all too tempting. The problem is they don’t necessarily see an immediate impact on their business when they let health and safety fall by the wayside. If they fail to live up to their health and safety obligations but, at the same time, see their daily operations apparently continuing as normal it just reinforces in their minds that they don’t need to bother with health and safety.
This is further bolstered by a widespread negative attitude in this country to health and safety law in general. Many bosses look at the reams of health and safety regulations they need to comply with and feel completely overwhelmed. We have every sympathy for bosses who are working so hard to keep their businesses prospering – particularly in the current economic climate – and feel like they are drowning under red tape.
So, if you’re running or managing a business why should you make health and safety one of your priorities? Firstly, if you embrace health and safety it can become one of your selling points. There is evidence to show in organisations where health and safety is taken seriously not only are staff protected but there are fewer cases of absences and sick leave. There is also evidence that firms which have reduced staff absences due to illness or accidents at work have better staff retention levels. This saves firms both time and the costs of recruiting and training new employees.
On the flip side what happens if you don’t embrace health and safety and something goes wrong or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors come calling?
In the worst-case scenario if you’re in breach of health and safety law it could lead to someone being injured or even losing their life. Sadly, we still see reports of such cases on a regular basis and the human cost to workers and their families cannot be overestimated.
The other side of this is if your business is found to be in breach of health and safety law, either because someone has been injured or following an inspection, your organisation may be forced to stop trading. It could face huge fines and court costs and company bosses can even find themselves facing personal fines and, in some cases, prison sentences. Even if the business is able to survive such an onslaught the damage to its reputation can be massive and have far-reaching consequences.
You may be wondering why we are highlighting this issue now? Well, because recently we read an interesting article which we wanted to share with you.
It was an interview conducted by the British Safety Council’s Safety Management magazine with HSE chief executive Sarah Albon. In it she reflected on the events of 2020 and helping the country to get through Covid-19 and other challenges.
In the piece, the journalist revealed details of a testing situation for the HSE which took place at the height of the first national lockdown in April 2020 when the demands for PPE for frontline workers were hitting the headlines every day. Four tonnes of medical gowns had just arrived from abroad at an airfield in Daventry and the HSE had a team on the ground waiting to certify and check everything. As a result of their checks, they rejected all but a few of the 40,000 gowns as being unsafe. The reporter went on to ask the reader if they could imagine how hard it must have been for the HSE to explain that decision.
Sarah revealed that she was fully aware of the pressures of the situation but that health and safety had to come first.
In the article, she said: “Our mantra is that protective equipment has to protect. You need to understand that your equipment is of the right quality, but also bringing a very pragmatic approach to understanding we were working in a highly pressured situation, right in the middle of a pandemic.”
We’re all human and we can all imagine how tempting it must have been to cut that particular corner at that particular time but the HSE refused to do so because they recognised the need to protect others.
That’s what health and safety regulations are there for – to protect. They protect lives, protect businesses, protect reputations.
If despite understanding this you are still feeling overwhelmed by the thought of managing your health and safety responsibilities then let an organisation like ours take that pressure away from you.
We take health, safety and construction design and management (CDM) problems away from businesses, meaning they won’t be subject to any additional costs, delays or nasty surprises.