Why is Health and Safety Important in the Workplace

importance of health and safety in the workplace

Health and safety are the appropriate measures employers must take to protect the mental and physical wellbeing of employees and the common public. This involves studying injuries and illnesses in the worker population and provides suggestions for mitigating the risks and hazards they face on the job. 

 

Employers have a duty of care under the legislation and protect businesses from breaching regulations that can lead to hefty fines, imprisonment and financial loss to business altogether. 

Why is Health and Safety Important in the Workplace?

Every year a million workdays are lost because of work-related illnesses. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 38.8 million days were lost in 2019/20 due to work-related ill-health and non-fatal injuries. The HSE reported that 1.7 million workers suffered from a work-related illness in 2020/21 – costing the economy an estimated amount of £16.2 billion.

Employers need to understand the importance of health and safety and the consequences if ignored. The affected workers could face:

  • Losing wages
  • Negative effects on health & wellbeing
  • Medical expenses
  • Chances of unemployment

However, employers could face:

  • Fines & compensation claims
  • Damaged work equipment
  • Loss of reputation
  • Decrease in productivity & increase in staff turnover

On the other hand, a safe workplace has a major impact on business KPIs. A safe work environment benefits from fewer injuries and accidents, resulting in lower healthcare costs, better employee retention and less employee downtime.

workplace health and safety

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.

The Purpose of Health and Safety Legislation

The health and safety legislation highlight the duty of care business owners have for everyone involved in their business. The set of laws outlines the need for health and safety in the workplace and a reasonably practical approach to prevent the risk of injuries and accidents. 

Who Enforces Health and Safety Regulations?

The HSE is the government-appointed organisation that enforces health and safety laws for all the workplaces operating in the United Kingdom. However, this responsibility divides the HSE and relevant local authorities to enact enforcement. The Health and Safety legislation is applied to all businesses and also to self-employed employees.  

The Main Health and Safety Regulations

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the fundamental piece of health and safety law upon which all other legislation builds. It is sometimes referred to as HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act or HASAW.

This law places duties on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers at work. It states that employers have the responsibility to protect the safety of their workers at work by preventing dangers in the workplace as much as practically possible.

Adherence to this law is essential for ensuring occupational health and safety. It is the key legislation used in criminal prosecutions.

1. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is also known as “Management Regs” and places a duty on employers to assess and manage health and safety risks at work.

Under these regulations, employers are required to do the following actions:

  • Manage workplace risks by carrying out a risk assessment
  • Take necessary actions to reduce risks
  • Appoint a “Competent person” to supervise workplace health and safety arrangements
  • Provide employees with the adequate information and training concerning safe working practices
  • Develop and implement health and safety in the workplace

2. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

These regulations fulfill the need to provide a healthy and safe working environment for all. They impose a duty on employers to make the workplace free from risks as much as practically possible and that appropriate work equipment is provided where essential.

The regulations cover:

  • Display screen equipment
  • Ventilation & windows
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Lighting
  • Falling objects
  • Waste materials
  • Environment around the working areas such as traffic, slip, trip and fall hazards
  • Facilities such as changing rooms, restrooms etc.

3. Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 amended 2002

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002 cover the need to assess a variety of manual handling operations including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.

The employers are required to:

  • Provide adequate training and information on correct manual handling procedures
  • Ensure work equipment provided is suitable for the intended purpose
  • Maintain manual handling equipment, properly

4. Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 amended 2002

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?

5. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order places a duty on employers to make effective fire safety management arrangements at workplaces. This includes carrying out the fire risk assessment and developing appropriate arrangements for detecting and protecting fire incidents at work.

Employers are required to:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment to identify hazards and risks – for example sources of ignition
  • Identify who is at risk in the event of a fire – employees, visitors, customers and visitors
  • Eliminate the fire risk as much as practically possible and have precautions in place to deal with potential risks
  • Ensure safe storage of flammable materials
  • Have an adequate emergency plan in place
  • Review the plan and findings on regular basis

6. RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013)

RIDORR puts responsibilities on employers to record certain inquiries, accidents, dangerous occurrences (near misses) at work and report to HSE or Local Authority.

A RIDORR report is necessary if:

  • The accident is work-related; and
  • The injury or accident is reportable

7. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

Under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, employers have legal duty to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate information and training on the safe usage.

Under these regulations, employers must:

  • Provide PPE free of any charge, where necessary
  • Provide adequate instructions on the right use of PPE equipment
  • PPE should be the last resort after implementing other risk controls to ensure safety

It also requires that PPE is:

  • Thoroughly evaluated before use to ensure its suitability
  • Maintained and stored, properly

8. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) 2002

COSHH regulations 2002 provide a framework to protect employees against the health and safety risks of hazardous substances.

The hazardous substances may be used directly in the workplace, such as cleaning chemicals or may arise from a work task such as dust, fumes, and waste products.

COSHH provides a step-by-step approach for the necessary precautions. The regulations require employers to control the usage, storage and transport of hazardous substances to minimise the workers’ possible exposure.

COSHH covers the handling of the following hazardous substances:

  • Chemicals (bleach for instance)
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dust
  • Vapours
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents

To minimise the workers’ exposure, employers must:

  • Identify the use of substances that are harmful to human health
  • Assess the risks of using hazardous substances
  • Reduce the risks by introducing control measures and ensuring these measures are properly implemented
  • Provide training to employees who are at risk of exposure
  • Plan for any emergency situation

9. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) require employers to control and prevent the risks to peoples’ health and safety from equipment they use at work.

The regulations cover a variety of equipment ranging from hand tools to large machinery. The employers need to ensure that the work equipment is:

  • Suitable for intended use
  • Maintained in a safe condition
  • Used by people who have adequate training
  • Incorporated by safety measures, e.g. protective devices

10. The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)

In addition to the PUWER requirements, lifting operations are subject to requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). 

 

Lifting equipment involves any equipment used for lifting and lowering loads, including attachments used for fixing or supporting loads. Common examples include cranes, fork-lift trucks, hoists, mobile elevating work platforms. 

 

The regulations aim to minimise employees’ health and safety risks from lifting equipment used at work. 

11. The Working Time Regulations 1998

The Working Time Regulations 1998 are based on two directives. The regulations govern how long the employees can work without breaks, maximum weekly hours, daily and weekly rest periods and holiday entitlement. 

Health & Safety Policies

The purpose of health and safety (H&S) policies is to prevent workplace accidents as much as practically possible. 

 

Under the HSW Act, employers must have a written H&S policy if they employ five or more employees. However, it is sound business sense to write the H&S policy, even if a company employs less than five persons. 

 

The H&S policies set out a general approach to workplace health and safety. They clearly explain who does what, when and how to manage the health and safety in the business. 

areas of health and safety policy

Health and Safety Training

Providing health and safety training helps to:

  • Ensure employees know how to work safely – without risks to health
  • Develop a positive health and safety culture

Moreover, an effective health and safety training can:

  • Contribute towards employees’ competency in health and safety
  • Help businesses avoid distress that illnesses can cause
  • Help avoid financial losses due to accidents and occupational ill-health cases

Where to Find Health and Safety Training?

Human Focus offers a variety of globally recognised health and safety courses from accredited bodies such as RoSPA, IOSH, IIRSM, CPD and UKATA. 

 

These courses provide a better understanding of the basic health and safety procedures that can be applied in the workplace to minimise the likelihood of injuries and accidents.  Explore our extensive library of health and safety courses to get the right knowledge you need at your fingertips.

 

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Amina Saeed
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