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The Importance of Health and Safety in the Workplace

UK workers are quitting their jobs. Recent research reports that 2 out of 10 employees in the UK plan to resign from their work in 2024. The study also shows that an extra 12 percent of employees anticipate exiting their current roles in the next two years, unless there are enhancements to their overall work experience.

One of the leading reasons why people are quitting their jobs is the management’s negligence towards employees’ wellbeing, along with overworking and insufficient pay. Without a doubt, businesses and organisations need to prioritise health and safety to retain employees. 

In this guide, we’ll further discuss what occupational health and safety means, why it is important for your business and best practices on how to maintain it.

What’s occupational health and safety?

What’s occupational health and safety?

Occupational health and safety (OHS), also known as workplace health and safety (WHS) or occupational safety and health (OSH), is a multidisciplinary field concerned with safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of individuals engaged in work or employment.

The primary goal of occupational health and safety is to create a safe and healthy work environment where employees can perform their tasks without undue risk to their health or safety. This involves identifying and assessing workplace hazards, implementing controls and preventive measures, providing adequate training and education to employees, and ensuring compliance with relevant health and safety regulations and standards.

In the UK, occupational health and safety regulation is primarily overseen and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The Health and Safety Executive is a non-departmental public body responsible for regulating and enforcing health and safety legislation in workplaces across Great Britain. 

It conducts inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions to ensure that employers are fulfilling their legal obligations to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Additionally, the HSE provides guidance, information, and resources to help businesses understand and comply with health and safety regulations.

Why is it important to comply with occupational health and safety?

Why is it important to comply with occupational health and safety?

Complying with OHS regulations is crucial for several reasons:

Protection of Workers

Compliance with OHS standards helps ensure the safety and well-being of employees in the workplace. By identifying and mitigating hazards, employers can reduce health and safety risks like work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, thereby safeguarding the physical and mental health of their workforce.

What data shows: According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), approximately 2.78 million work-related fatalities occur worldwide each year, with an estimated 374 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses.

Legal Obligations

Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees under various health and safety legislation and regulations. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal consequences, including fines, penalties, and potential litigation, which can damage the reputation and financial stability of the organisation.

What data shows: A study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK found that non-compliance with health and safety regulations led to over £13 million in fines issued to UK companies in 2020. 

Productivity and Efficiency 

A safe and healthy work environment promotes employee morale, engagement, and productivity. When workers feel secure and supported, they are more likely to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently. This leads to higher levels of job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, and increased retention rates.

What data shows: Research from the Social Market Foundation indicates that happy employees are roughly 12% more productive compared to their discontented peers. The boost in productivity is particularly significant in positive workplace settings where employees feel valued and their voices heard. Furthermore, the presence of satisfied employees is linked to reduced turnover rates, enhanced customer service, better efficiency in terms of costs and time, a decrease in the number of sick leaves taken, increased profits, and the fostering of a positive organizational culture.

Cost Savings 

Preventing workplace accidents and illnesses through OHS compliance can result in saving a significant cost for organisations. By avoiding the expenses associated with medical treatment, compensation claims, and productivity losses (due to absenteeism or disability), businesses can protect their bottom line and maintain financial sustainability.

What data shows: The International Labour Office (ILO) has published a report indicating that workplace accidents and illnesses result in approximately 2 million fatalities each year, imposing an estimated economic burden of $1.25 trillion (or 1,250,000 million US dollars) worldwide. This loss, the report details, equates to roughly $1.25 trillion in annual global gross domestic product (GDP) reduction. The ILO bases its estimate on the analysis that work-related illnesses and accidents account for about 4% of the world's annual GDP.

Reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility 

Demonstrating a commitment to OHS compliance enhances an organisation's reputation and corporate image. Employers that prioritise the health and safety of their employees are viewed more favourably by customers, investors, and the broader community. Additionally, promoting a culture of safety can help attract top talent and differentiate the organisation as a responsible corporate citizen.

What data shows: When an organisation is sizable and makes significant investments in Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) programmes, EU-OSHA's findings indicate a significant enhancement in the organisation's image. Such investments lead to an increase in brand value and an unquestionable improvement in the company's reputation. The organisation gains recognition for its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, which strengthens its position in the business community (EU-OSHA, 2007).

Compliance with occupational health and safety regulations goes beyond the protection of lives. It will contribute to the lasting success of your business.

What are the responsibilities of employers concerning HSE?

What are the responsibilities of employers concerning HSE?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) sets out health and safety laws employers have to ensure health and safety in the UK workplace. This includes making the workplace safe, conducting risk assessments, and giving employees the necessary information, training, and supervision on health and safety.

Employers are also required to consult with their employees on these matters, aiming to protect not just those who work for them but also anyone else who might be impacted by their work activities. Essentially, employers must do everything reasonably possible to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of both employees and the wider public.

Who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

Who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

It’s important to understand that a healthy and safe workplace is a result of the collaborative effort from all involved (employers and employees). However, the ultimate responsibility for health and safety rests with the employer.

As previously mentioned, employers have a legal duty to ensure the overall well-being of their employees, as well as others who may be affected by their work activities, such as contractors, visitors, and the public

On the other end, workers are responsible for cooperating with their employer on health and safety matters, following safe working practices, and reporting any hazards or concerns.

Health and Safety in the Workplace Examples

Health and Safety in the Workplace Examples

Big businesses are leading health and safety initiatives. Here are some of their successful programmes:

  • Google's Ergonomic Workstations:Google prioritises employee well-being by providing ergonomic workstations and adjustable desks to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. They also offer on-site physical therapy services and regular ergonomic assessments to ensure that employees maintain good posture and minimise strain while working.
  • Amazon's Safety Leadership Programme:Amazon has implemented a Safety Leadership Programme to empower employees at all levels to take responsibility for safety in the workplace. They provide leadership training on safety principles, encourage supervisors to conduct regular safety inspections, and engage with employees to address concerns and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • British Airways' Health and Well-being Programme:British Airways offers a comprehensive health and well-being programme for its employees. This includes access to on-site medical clinics, mental health support services, and fitness facilities. They also promote healthy lifestyle choices through wellness initiatives, such as smoking cessation programmes and nutrition counselling.

Occupational Health and Safety Tips and Best Practices

Occupational Health and Safety Tips and Best Practices

Promoting health and safety in the workplace is not that hard. Here are some practical tips for OHS that employees and employers can use:

  • Conduct Regular Risk Assessments:As the famous saying goes, “Prevention is always better than cure.” Comprehensive risk assessments will help identify any potential hazards at work. Constant review and updates are also necessary to address new risks that may arise.
  • Provide Adequate Training:Work-related accidents are lessened when employees are well-educated on health and safety procedures. This may include training them on how to use equipment safely, handle hazardous materials, and respond to emergencies. You can tap us here at e-Careers to train your team in OHS.
  • Promote Open Communication:Encourage employees to report any safety concerns or near misses promptly. Establish clear channels of communication, such as suggestion boxes or safety committees, to facilitate feedback and collaboration on health and safety issues.
  • Implement Health and Safety Practices:Establish and enforce safety practices and procedures to minimise the risk of accidents and injuries. This may include proper lifting techniques, ergonomic workstation setup, and adherence to safety protocols in high-risk areas.
  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):Supply appropriate PPE, such as gloves, goggles, and safety harnesses, to employees working in hazardous environments. Ensure that PPE is worn correctly and regularly inspected for damage or wear.
  • Maintain Cleanliness and Organisation:Keep your workplace clean, tidy, and well-maintained to prevent slips, trips, and falls. For employers, implement regular housekeeping routines and provide adequate storage for equipment and materials to reduce clutter and hazards.
  • Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Choices:You can promote employee well-being by offering wellness programs, ergonomic assessments, and access to resources for stress management and mental health support.
  • Foster a Safety Culture:It’s also important to cultivate a culture of safety where employees feel empowered to take ownership of their own safety and the safety of their colleagues. You can do this by recognising and rewarding safety-conscious behaviour and actively-involved employees.
  • Conduct Emergency Preparedness Drills:Emergencies are unavoidable. That’s why you need to schedule regular emergency drills, such as fire drills or evacuation exercises, to ensure that employees know what to do in case of an emergency. You also need to provide clear evacuation routes, emergency contact information, and designated assembly areas.
  • Stay Informed and Compliant:Last but not least, stay up-to-date with relevant health and safety regulations, industry standards, and best practices. Regularly review and revise policies and procedures to ensure compliance and alignment with current guidelines.

Be a health and safety professional with e-Careers

Be a health and safety professional with e-Careers

Training your staff in health and safety, instead of outsourcing, is more cost-effective and pays more in the long run. No one knows your work environment more than your employees. Their health and safety training will result in making more tailored and targeted solutions, which is more effective.

If you are looking for a training provider for health and safety, e-Careers is one of UK’s best. We offer NEBOSH and IOSH courses. We have successfully trained individuals and teams alike. Our experts and consultants will offer career advice for free so that you’ll know which course is best to take. Talk to us today at +44 (0) 20 3198 7700 or message us at ask@e-careers.com.

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