What is health and safety in the workplace?
Workplace health and safety is all about sensibly managing risks to protect your workers and your business. Good health and safety management is characterised by strong leadership involving your managers, workers, suppliers, contractors and customers. In a global context, health and safety is also an essential part of the movement towards sustainable development.
Why is it important?
It’s good to know the benefits, so we’ve listed 10 reasons why health and safety is important.
- It is morally right to ensure your workers return home safe and healthy at the end of every working day.
- By protecting your workers, you reduce absences, ensuring that your workplace is more efficient and productive.
- Research shows that workers are more productive in workplaces that are committed to health and safety.
- Reducing down-time caused by illness and accidents means less disruption – and saves your business money.
- In some countries, health and safety legislation is criminal law and you are legally obliged to comply with it. Legal breaches can result in prosecution, fines and even imprisonment of senior executives.
- To attract investors and partnerships you may need to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility, which will include how you protect your workers.
- Increasingly, customers want to buy products and services that are produced ethically – so you also need to think about the work practices throughout your supply chain and deal only with ethical suppliers that protect their workforce.
- More and more, job hunters – particularly Millennials and Generation Z – seek roles with employers who share their values, so without strong corporate responsibility and sustainability practices you may struggle to attract or retain the best employees.
- A good health and safety record is a source of competitive advantage: it builds trust in your reputation and brand, while poor health and safety performance will directly affect profitability and can result in loss of trade or even closure of the business.
- Good health and safety at work secures long-term benefits for you, your business and the wider community.
Five things you can do to improve health and safety in your workplace
- Find out more about risk management – you can find information on this through our website or other credible sources.
- Lead from the top. Workers are much more likely to get involved and comply with controls if senior management make it clear that health and safety is taken seriously by your business. Actively discourage negative behaviours such as taking risks to save time or effort.
- Improve health and safety competence in your business. IOSH provides training courses to meet your needs at all levels.
- Get your workers involved in risk assessment: this will increase ‘buy-in’ and ownership of their own health and safety. Set up health and safety representatives, and if they are already established, support them more visibly.
- Implement a health and safety management system for your business. This should include an overall policy setting out your commitment, responsibilities allocated to individuals and your arrangements detailing how you will actually control your risks. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive publishes its freely-available standard HSG 65 ‘Managing for health and safety’ or there is the international standard ISO 45001.
IOSH is the world’s largest membership organisation for health and safety professionals, with a network of over 47,000 health and safety professionals worldwide. Membership gives you access to this network, along with a health, safety and employment helpline and numerous other benefits. To find out more, visit our become a member page.
If you are looking to train yourself or members of your staff on the basics of health and safety, we have a number of courses for all levels within the business.
By Stephen Thomas
Health & Safety Business Partner