Health and safety at work

Many people love to dismiss current health and safety practice as excessively bureaucratic

However, those who take the topic lightly are usually yet to experience a workplace accident themselves.

“When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly forty years at sea, I merely say uneventful.”
— Captain E. J. Smith, prior to captaining the Titanic

For HR, the goals of health and safety are clear: legal compliance and a safe, healthy workforce. Important aspects for HR professionals include health and safety policies, the law, health and safety audits, employee well-being, security and first aid.

Through good management, organisations can improve performance and reduce the cost of ill-health and injury — which totals more than £10bn in the UK annually (source: Health and Safety Executive data).

The cost of injury and illness at work

The main causes of workplace injury are trips and falls, dangerous lifting and carrying, and being struck by moving objects. Common work-related illnesses include back pain, respiratory diseases and loss of hearing.

In addition to human suffering, such injuries and illnesses result in costs to employers such as:

  1. Compensation costs and insurance premium increases
  2. Fines, prosecution, and associated legal costs
  3. Reduced worker productivity, absence, sick pay and increased employee turnover

Organisations, therefore, implement occupational health and safety policies, to reduce the safety risks of workplace activities. Measures aim to control occupational factors (risks related to specific tasks), environmental factors (such as dust and fumes in the air) and human factors (worker behaviours that pose risk).

Mental health issues

Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are a major cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. They also cost UK companies £26 bn per year, or £1,035 per employee, making a strong business case for prioritising good mental health for workers.

Workplace health and safety law

Organisations also have many legal obligations regarding workplace health and safety. Most of the legislation is contained in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). The law expects your organisation to self-regulate, with good management through a detailed health and safety policy.

Your organisation’s legal obligations include:

  1. Duty of care towards everyone working on your premises. Your employees also have a duty to look after themselves and not harm others.
  2. Compliance with the six main regulations. These include Management of Health & Safety at Work, Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare), Provision and Use of Work Equipment, PPE at Work, Manual Handling Operations and Display Screen Equipment regulations.

Health and safety policies

If you employ more than five people, you also need a written health and safety policy. Your policy needs to show how your organisation:

  1. Implements your safety management systems
  2. Ensures work systems and equipment are safe
  3. Controls risks of handling hazardous substances
  4. Provides adequate welfare at work
  5. Carries out suitable risk assessments and provide preventative and protective measures

Health and safety advice from BrightHR

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