Health and Safety is Not a Cost Centre

a chalkboard with the words – work safety – surrounded by a hard hat, work boots and gloves, a walkie talkie and industrial headphones

When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published its latest annual injury and ill health statistics for Great Britain, it revealed some startling statistics, including:

  • 36.8 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • Annual costs of work-related injury and new cases of ill health in 2021/22 (excluding long latency illness such as cancer) estimated at £18.8 billion

While Great Britain continues to be one of the safest places to work, these figures highlight the importance of managing risk, and an ongoing need for improved prevention of workplace fatalities, injuries, and ill-health.

Yes, health and safety costs money. Yes, it hits your bottom line. But on the other hand, it saves you so much more than it costs.

Financial Benefits of Improving Health and Safety

Improving workplace health and safety minimises sick leave, which saves money on multiple levels, such as:

  • Direct costs of absence – Salary payments for absent employees and/or paying overtime to cover absent employees
  • Indirect costs of absence – Knock-on effects, such as reputational damage, diminished services, new staff recruitment, and existing staff training and additional support

There’s much to be gained from adopting a positive approach to reducing absence. The sooner you do, the sooner your sick employees can get back to work and get on with helping you build your business.

But there’s more to it than the money.

Developing a Company-Wide Safety Culture

The term “workplace culture” has recently become trendy.  It refers to the way things are done in your workplace. Building a safety culture is equally important. In fact, it’s absolutely vital to a successful and effective health and safety management system.

But, the idea of developing or adapting your safety culture might seem daunting, especially if a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude has become embedded over time.  The thing is, complacency can result in accidents, injuries or illness, which no business wants to happen, or to have to face the consequences.

So, how do you get started?

There are many ways to build a safety culture. But here’s a few of my best suggestions, based on my years of frontline experience.

a blackboard with the words – safety culture – in white chalk topped by a white hard hat

5 Top Tips for Building a Safety Culture

1. Lead from the front

If management commits to safety, employees will follow. A top-down safety culture encourages employee buy-in. On the flip side of the coin, they won’t engage if they don’t see their leaders meticulously following policies and procedures. So, make sure you’re walking the walk and not just talking the talk!

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Spread the word by:

  • Making your safety policies and procedures readily available on a health and safety notice board or via the staff intranet
  • Holding weekly or monthly safety talks

After all, it’s their safety you’re looking after. And remember, management shouldn’t just listen, but also take what you hear seriously.

3. Involve everyone

Safety isn’t confined to the health and safety department or the management team. It’s a collective effort that’s necessary for building a compelling safety culture. The vision needs to be shared with everyone, and employees need channels for communicating the risks associated with their roles. After all, they know best what they’re up against.  This might include involvement in workshops, risk assessments or in-process developments. 

4. Encourage reporting

Accidents, near misses, unsafe acts and conditions can be reduced when they’re reported. Plus, it’s much easier to build and maintain a positive safety culture when employees feel comfortable about reporting safety issues. This is even more so when they see a positive and proactive process in place. So, make sure any issues raised by employees are investigated, and corrective and preventative measures are taken to reduce future risks. 

5. Celebrate success

Keep everyone motivated by recognising efforts. For example, show them your statistics of near misses, accidents and incidents, and how their efforts are creating a safer working environment. By promoting a collaborative effort, you can nurture a culture in which health and safety concerns, ideas and solutions are freely shared and problems are solved together.

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