The Impact of Health and Safety on Businesses
Health and safety in the workplace is vital, as it ensures the general welfare of employees and supports them when carrying out specific tasks. There are legal regulations set in place to support employees, employers and the general public with implementing health and safety procedures at work. But regardless of regulation, we are all responsible for workplace health and safety and should always raise concerns and act responsibly.
Learn more about health and safety at work and how it impacts your business.
The definition of Health and Safety
Health and Safety at work refers to the many rules and procedures in place to keep everyone safe in the workplace and in public areas. There are a number of health and safety laws that apply in the workplace and the consequences of not following these health and safety regulations are very serious; ranging from fines to prison sentences.
A brief history of health and safety at work
Health and safety legislation dates back to the Industrial Revolution. Back then, workers’ conditions were generally poor, with many children working for factories in unsafe conditions. The introduction of the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 was the first step towards improving health and safety at work. The next century would introduce further health and safety laws to ensure workers health and safety is protected.
What is the Health and Safety at Work Act?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the most authoritative piece of health and safety-related legislation in the UK.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 summary:
- The duties employers have for the employees and the general public.
- The duties employees have towards themselves and others.
- The duties that some self-employed people have towards themselves and others.
The full Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is free to read on legislation.gov.uk.
Why is Health and Safety important in the workplace?
Traditionally, health and safety at work has been associated with environments that pose an element of obvious risk. However, all workplaces, regardless of how obvious the risks are, need to be conscious of health and safety legislation.
Health and safety at work is designed to keep everyone safe, stressing the importance of safety procedures and ensuring there are consequences for those that are not following these health and safety regulations.
An effective health and safety policy:
- Helps protect employees and visitors from harm.
Prevents injuries and illnesses that would cause employees to be off work and could lead to legal action against the business.
Ensures employers fulfil their duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Outlines who is responsible for workplace health and safety.
With the right policies and procedures in place, you can do everything in your power to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
Health and Safety is ever-changing
The management of health and safety at work is a vital role and involves constantly learning and developing safe systems of work to ensure your workplace and employees are always kept safe.
Due to original regulation and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), managing risk in the workplace is essential to maintaining a happy and healthy working environment for all personnel. This has caused changes in practice for a number of reasons, including:
- The differences in the working environments under one organisation has meant that companies now need to develop risk assessments based on a number of environments. These include home working, industrial sites, and field roles.
- Since 2000, there has been a focus on improving occupation health, this has led to further developments in improving the lives and well-being of workers.
- Several new regulations have been established over the years to respond to changing work environments, including the manual handling Operations Regulations 1992, and The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.
The impacts of health and safety laws in the workplace
Injuries at work remain an area of concern for many businesses. However, there have been significant improvements in each sector due to the changes and adaptions of health and safety regulations in recent years.
In 2016/17, the number of both self-reported and employer-reported non-fatal injuries was down by around half since 2000/01. More severe injuries or fatalities have also reduced in number in many industries.
Not only do these numbers represent a reduction in injury numbers, but they also provide a boost in other areas of a business. Companies that are committed to looking after an employee’s health also enjoy:
- A reduction in absenteeism and sick leave.
- Higher retention of skilled staff.
- An improved reputation amongst your competitors.
- Improvements in productivity, as employees can carry out work safely with less interruption.
- Savings on insurance and legal costs due to a decrease in claims or action taken by staff.
Implementing health and safety in the workplace helps to assess potential risks and identify significant hazards. It also enables you to put measures in place to protect the people and environment in your organisation. These vital steps are essential to reduce the costs associated with safety failures.
By incorporating health and safety at work principles as far as reasonably practical, you will create a safe environment, while also saving your business time and money in the long-term.
Health and safety at work in the post-pandemic world
The COVID-19 pandemic saw extra measures being brought into help maintain healthy and safety laws at work and ensure that workplaces helped to prevent the spread of the disease.
While the effects of the pandemic have eased off in recent months, many workplaces have continued to use some of the measures brought in to help prevent further infections and improve staff health and safety, including:
Widespread use of hand sanitiser products.
Use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Adjusting health and safety risk assessments to cover COVID-19 as well as future events.
Social distancing measures in certain environments.
As more and more workplaces return to ‘business as usual’, it still remains important to maintain a safe work environment and prioritise the health and wellbeing of your employees.
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