The importance of health and safety in the workplace

The importance of health and safety in the workplace

The importance of health and safety in the workplace

The importance of health and safety in the workplace

How important is health and safety in the workplace? The Health and Safety Act was introduced in 1974 in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of those in the workplace. However, the debate about its importance has been gathering momentum over the last few years and has detractors and supporters on both sides.

There are some who argue that workplace health and safety has gone too far. Health and safety has to a certain extent become a generic phrase and it appears that not a lot of people are aware of what it means.  These people argue that health and safety law is often used as an excuse to ban or limit activities when in reality the risks posed are trivial or could be prevented by a risk assessment.

They also argue that health and safety measures are too complex, with some arguing that it is better just to use common sense rather than carry out risk assessments. Furthermore, it has been claimed that health and safety in the workplace wastes time and money, with workers having to carry out ridiculous measures in order to avoid minor risks, for example receiving safety training with staplers in order to avoid stapling themselves. The claim is that health and safety legislation actually hinders productivity and interferes with day to day life.  It could also be argued that some workplace health and safety rules are outdated.

A survey of 6000 businesses, conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce in 2011, found that almost half of the firms surveyed felt that health and safety regulations are a burden to deal with. David Frost, director general of the BCC, argued that the number of rules confuses employers, especially smaller organisations.

He stated, “Time and time again, we hear of unnecessary and unreasonable examples of health and safety. For example, home workers are treated in the same way as those working onsite, with the employer forced to conduct ever-more elaborate and costly assessments of the employee's home environment."

The importance of health and safety in the workplace

However, if the health and safety initiatives carried out in workplaces help prevent the serious injuries that can be caused in the workplace then that surely must be a good thing. If organisations are required to adopt a balanced and well-thought out response to controlling risks then this is a must be seen as good move. More than 200 people are killed at work each year (not including work-related road deaths); if implementing health and safety measures can help cut down on these numbers, then this should be seen as positive move.

Whilst for some, health and safety in the workplace is seen as a hindrance, it is something that workers have fought for as they have attempted to improve their overall working conditions. If we implement cuts to do away with it, then we underestimate the positive effect health and safety has had on the workplace. It could also have a positive effect on employees’ morality and wellbeing, as they feel the workplace is attempting to look after them.

It seems that there is a great deal of confusion and falsehoods about what health and safety actually is and what its legislation entails. It does seem that health and safety helps more than it hinders and its place in the workplace is extremely important.

The importance of health and safety in the workplace

 

When manufacturer’s or old machine safety control measures may not be enough

Old Machine Safety

Old Machine Safety

Old Machine Safety

This week we have been to some pretty disturbing site investigations where incidents have recently happened involving RIDDOR. It got us thinking, as we all know Britain is not the great manufacturing giant that is used to be so with that in mind we tend to import a lot of machinery into the UK to be used in factories and so on. Now this week we have investigated a few incidents where guarding and safety devices although not bad could indeed be improved on. We have even seen an ex army world war two pillar drill being used as the business owner told us that "it is the best" and "you just cannot get a machine these days that will do the job". With a slight modification we managed to make the equipment safe for the requirements of the twenty first century and the business owner is not only happy he can use this great tool, his employees and anyone using it are a lot safer from potential harm (from the machine) than our predecessors who used to use it back in the war.

So it may be worth completing a new risk assessment for any equipment you may have that may be old, unusual or may not even have instructions or a service manual in English.

Old Machine Safety

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It

Most average SME's do not have Human Resource Departments or specifically designed training for managers that tackle stress in the workplace.

SME's that are still trading and making good profit in the new globalized world especially during these economic hard-times should be congratulated and please do not think we are not trying to take anything away from the effort taken to prosper at this time.

During the last twenty something years the world has been changing at a pace that many of us don't know how to keep up with... Every essential part of our lives is so different than it used to be not too long ago such as family life, work, even shopping and relationships. More and more often the individual feels lost in a world lead by pure numbers, profits, global interests, banks bailed out with taxpayer' money, strong economic recession etc.

So how does one deal with work-related stress when having responsibilities in a small or medium sized business?

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It

Without taking into account all the shiny named departments, professionals and resources of the multinational giants, a SME has as much legal obligation in dealing with work-related stress and employee' wellbeing as a big company. Ensuring employees are not subject to stress is an employers responsibility not only under health and safety regulations (HSWA 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999), but also other laws such as Employers' Liability Act 1969, the Public Order Act 1986, etc. Having effective policies and procedures such as including stress and mental health issues in your Health and Safety Policy is also a legal requirement.

Duty holders of SME's are becoming more and more aware of these responsibilities. Especially because many are starting to realize that a happy workforce and well organized work processes are essential for surviving and expanding during the present economic downturn. A recent study of Zurich Insurance conducted among 500 SME' decision-makers have shown that 42% of them realized that stress was having a negative impact in their businesses and expressed a desire to tackle the problem. 25% have serious worries about the deterioration of employee' work morale and the high costing stress-related absences, especially during the last two years. The study also highlighted that a high percentage of employers feel stressed and pressured.

During the worse period of the recession 2008-11, many SME's had to take radical cost-cutting actions, which automatically had translated into overloaded workforce and exasperation.

So how would you know where to start and how big of a problem there is in your SME?

1. The law recommends treating the work-related stress problem as any other work risk. Using continuous and regular risk assessments are essential and will help you recognize to what extent stress is affecting your organization.

2. Make sure all employees know exactly what their obligations are, starting with the initial training, conducting regular performance reviews, setting clear objectives and targets. Having a written job description for each employee and highlighting their particular responsibilities proves to be an excellent tool to reduce stress.

3. Every change means and leads to more spending more and is a major cause of work-related stress. Planning ahead and informing your workforce about future organizational or structural changes is always helpful to avoid stress.

4. Try to involve employees in the decision-making process. Let them feel free to express their suggestions and worries. Not only will this control stress levels, but it is also proven to be beneficial for reducing costs. Managers need to be supportive and sympathetic.

5. Invest in training as much as you can afford. It makes staff more involved and more compromised with the company, apart from making them feel more secure it helps them receive a personal benefit from the job.

6. Good, fluent communication is also essential.

And remember that work-related stress does not necessarily occur in specific industries or only in people who have major responsibilities in their job. It is the silent, fast growing and expanding disease of the whole of our society.

None of us can ignore it.

Stress in the Work Place and How to Tackle It was written by our top health and safety consultant in Manchester