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- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 18 Oct 2018
Health and safety defined
Workplace health and safety relates directly to where staff work, e.g. the building, machinery and immediate local working environment. It is not directly concerned with staff ill health, unless the workplace caused it, but the workplace should be able to deal with the affects of an ill health situation, e.g. first aid provision. Many organisations now extend into employee wellbeing to keep them as healthy and as productive as possible.
It should go without saying that as a business owner you don't want to injure anyone as no one likes to see people being injured, made ill or affected by anything that is dangerous. As a responsible employer you would expect that staff work safely during the day, or night, and return home in the same condition they left. A moral and ethical duty exists to protect staff - and those that you maybe don't actually control but have access to your premises, e.g. visitors, contractors and the general public.
Health and safety law affects all organisations without exception. Smaller organisations may not have to complete risk assessments but they are still subject to the same legal duties. If they are found negligent in their legal duties they can be taken to court or face civil actions. Smaller organisations can be more liable to court action as they are easier to prosecute as they are not as complicated as larger firms who also employ specialist advisers to reduce their risk.
Paying staff when they are not at work costs money. In addition, you may have to pay for temporary cover or overtime whilst they are off and together with possible re-training costs and management time involved, injuries can be expensive. Paying fines and compensation is also expensive and takes many months to conclude and involves lots of time in defending a prosecution or a claim.
Any adverse publicity may also cost money due to the loss of potential orders and customers. Insurance companies don't like accidents either as they know they can be expensive. Insurance premiums will rise if accidents take place, conversely they may reduce if effective health and safety measures are in place within the organisation.
Health and safety is based in law but can be very subjective - everyone seems to have a view and it can be an emotive one. Unfortunately, accidents have always happened and will continue to do so, but as long as you did everything to prevent them or reduce the severity, you can rest a bit easier.
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