Workplace health and safety is crucial for running a successful business and ensuring your organisation complies with health and safety legislation. It requires employers to assess and control risks and hazards that could harm employees, customers, contractors and others.
Occupational health and safety requires consistent and regular monitoring of risks to reflect changing circumstances such as new premises or workplace activities. Regardless of the size of the organisation, understanding why health and safety is important should be a priority, with employees trained to ensure they can safely carry out their duties.
Occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety is a serious consideration for anyone who works in an organisation, regardless of the industry sector, organisation size or level of seniority.
Between 2020-2021, more than 440,000 people suffered a non-fatal workplace injury, with slips, trips and falls being the most common cause. Almost a quarter of these injuries resulted in more than seven days of absence from work.
However, before modern health and safety legislation was enacted, these numbers were much higher. The UK recorded around 4,400 annual workplace fatalities in 1900, compared to a few hundred per year in the 21st century. The creation of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 outlines the duties organisations and responsible persons have concerning occupational health and safety.
So why is health and safety important, besides reducing the risk of injuries to employees or customers?
Why is health and safety important in the workplace?
Ensuring workplace health and safety is a legal requirement for organisations. However, putting in place controls to reduce the risk of harm to employees, customers, contractors and others shouldn’t be done solely to meet occupational health and safety regulations. There are several benefits – from productivity gains to attracting more qualified employees – that stem from having an effective approach to workplace health and safety.
1. Employee safety
It might seem obvious, but the key benefit is to prevent harm to employees when carrying out their duties or in the workplace. Employers have a moral and legal duty to prevent employees, customers, contractors and others from becoming ill or being injured during their work, including protecting physical and mental wellbeing.
2. Legal obligations
It is a legal requirement for organisations to provide employees with the information, tools and training needed to complete their jobs safely. Organisations who do not provide this can face legal action, including fines and prosecution.
With fewer employees unable to work due to workplace-related illness or injury, organisations can realise productivity gains. Research by IOSH found that organisations with a proactive approach to health and safety management tend to perform better in terms of profit margins, a fewer number of accidents and days lost because of accidents.
4. Cost saving
By having fewer employees on sick leave due to workplace-related illness or accidents, organisations can realise cost savings due to the lack of disruption and downtime. Organisations lower overall costs on sick pay (above SPP obligations) and can benefit from lower insurance premiums.
5. Competitive edge
Good governance, including maintaining health and safety policies and reporting accidents at work, can inspire trust in an organisation. A sound safety record can demonstrate to stakeholders, customers and investors that your organisation is effectively and safely managed.
6. Meeting customer wants
Customers are increasingly valuing ethical organisations. Not only does this include using sustainable products and supply chains, but also demonstrating positive ethics such as treating your workforce fairly and keeping them safe.
7. Attracting employees
Job seekers are increasingly searching for roles in organisations that align with their values and have a strong sense of corporate responsibility. By clearly stating your occupational health and safety commitments in job ads, your organisation may attract a larger pool of potential candidates while also retaining employees.
Implementing effective occupational health and safety policies and programmes can lead to being recognised by international standards bodies. Organisations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have standards such as ISO 45000 that allow organisations to achieve certification and recognition for meeting the ISO specifications. This certification can play a valuable role in your organisation applying for government or corporate tenders.
How to improve occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety policies are an essential part of an effective organisation. There are several ways to improve your organisation’s health and safety, from risk assessments to employee training.
Conduct risk assessments
Risk assessments are the process in which potential workplace and employee hazards and risks are identified, recorded, analysed and managed in order to reduce any potential harm.
While this process may seem fairly straightforward, it can be easy to miss unfamiliar risks. Having an outside perspective, such as using external risk assessors, can be an ideal way of robustly identifying and addressing workplace risks.
Our health and safety consultancy services help organisations build robust strategies and conduct thorough risk assessments.
Get employee input
Rather than conducting a risk assessment based on just an individual’s observations, engage employees across the organisation to get a clearer picture of the risks and hazards they face when doing their duties. Employee involvement is a powerful way of creating an organisation-wide health and safety culture.
Develop written policies
A written health and safety document for organisations with five or more employees is a legal requirement. This document should outline all the rules and regulations to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment and what to do in an incident or accident.
Having a written policy is an excellent way to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations.
Provide ISOH approved training
Every employee needs to be aware of the risks and what can be done to avoid them. An effective way to do this is to use health and safety training courses to educate employees, such as our IOSH Approved Health and Safety Awareness course.
Not only are these courses more dynamic and stimulating than a company-wide health and safety meeting, but they are flexible and allow employees to learn at their own speed, increasing the chances of the desired outcome – health and safety awareness for all.