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Why is health and safety important in the workplace?


Employers, and those in upper management, have a moral Duty of Care to protect anyone who might be affected by their operations.

The right to be healthy and safe is an essential component to the society we live. Yet, many members of the public and employees are killed or seriously injured annually as a result of work activities by organisations operating in a wide variety of sectors.

Types of Accidents

Accidents fall under various categories:

  • Major accidents are those that require hospitalisation of 24 hours or more and often involve a broken body part
  • An ‘over-seven-day accident’ is one that results in more than seven days of absence from work
  • When determining accident rates, all accidents are taken into account, not just those that happen to employees

How Common Are Workplace Accidents?

These graphs show us the long-term trends of fatal and serious accidents in the workplace.

Whilst you see that overall the numbers have declined, they have remained consistent in recent years.

A Stark Story

Looking closer at the numbers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures tell a stark story.

According to the latest data, in 2018/19 some 1.4 million employees suffered from work-related ill health, whilst 581,000 individuals suffered from a non-fatal injury and 147 lost their lives while on the job.

This means that in the UK every three days there are two fatal accidents in the workplace on average – not accounting for traffic accidents that occurred during work.In addition, around 13,000 deaths per year are linked to exposure to a workplace hazard in the past.

It’s important to remember that behind each of these statistics is not just a worker, but also a family, a team of colleagues, and an organisation – all impacted by the tragedy.

How much of this is preventable?

It’s clear that much pain and suffering can be caused while people in their workplace are just trying to do their jobs. Some incur terrible injuries and illnesses – many because their organisation is not running a proper health and safety system.

Perhaps some are even making use of online health and safety training. It is likely that many organisations do believe that they are doing everything they can to ensure the health and safety of their workers.

But the truth of the matter is that 70% of workplace incidents could have been prevented by good management, according to the HSE.

Your Moral Duty of Care

In the past, the role of the various levels of management in Health and Safety was less clear. After all, everyone can’t be a health safety expert. Moreover, those in many leadership positions are far removed from the inner functions of organisations. Perhaps, at one time, it made more sense to delegate this responsibility to others.

But, when someone suffers a life-changing injury or even dies in the workplace. The responsibility and consequences fall on everyone.

Why Health & Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility?

A major accident or injury at any level can have far-ranging impacts on your organisation.

How would a major accident or death affect you and the community that makes up your organisation?

First of all, think about the injured employee, their personal pain and suffering, and how the accident would affect their family. It is possible that they could have an extended hospital stay and might never work again, or possibly worse.

What if the accident was fatal?

This would be devastating enough for you and your staff, let alone the family of the lost employee.

The Rippling Consequences of Accidents

With serious or fatal accidents, enforcement agencies will become involved which may include, the police, and certainly the Health & Safety Executive, or local inspectors.

There will be an investigation that will consume considerable time and resources.

Following this, the regulator could take action, which could lead to prosecutions, fines, and even the imprisonment of individual managers or directors.

Think about some of the impacts to your organisation; they will include:

  • Replacing the worker
  • The investigation into the accident
  • Slowed or stopped production, and
  • Increased insurance premiums

Beyond this, think about your organisation’s reputation. What message will a devastating accident send about you, and where you work? And how may this change the image of what your company is known for among the public, including potential and current customers, clients, and employees?

Even Small Failures Matter

Even small failures to properly implement health and safety can cost large amounts and destroyed lives and health. It could stop production or the functioning of your business.

It could also have devastating effects on the image of the organisation.  You have to wonder, could your company survive even a relatively small event?

The Importance of Strong Leadership in Health & Safety

This is why the most successful companies recognise that good management of health and safety is essential. They understand that it is the duty of the leaders throughout their organisation to take a stand on risk management.

This means conducting risk assessments and putting controls in place, providing the right resources so that everybody can work safely, such as health and safety training and health and safety online training, and regularly monitoring, reviewing, and updating their health and safety policy to ensure that it is doing the job that it should.

In other words, your leadership must be the driving force for building a strong health and safety culture which enables people to do the best job they can do.

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