Health and Safety – Costly or Beneficial?

GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE

Health and Safety Consultant at EazySAFE

Well, this is an interesting topic for discussion! If you ask a small business owner or someone in management, they will probably say that health and safety is costly, takes up time and can be a barrier. Ask a health and safety professional and you will get the opposite answer! On a serious note, if you asked someone who had a serious accident or the family of someone who has lost a loved one due to an accident at work, then I’m sure the response would be that we must do everything we can to ensure the safety of our employees. You can’t put a price on life.

Emergency situation on aircraft
Hotel Emergency Exits

Working together with management and constantly reviewing costs, was the only way I was going to get my point across with the support of management.

Exit door of an aircraft

I’m going to be honest here. Before we get into the detail of how financially beneficial it is for your company to manage health and safety, the main reason I got into health and safety was to keep people safe – I wasn’t bothered about saving a company money. Plain and simple: keep people safe and send them back home to their families every day. In saying that, over time and working at a management level, I understood that there had to be a balance.

There had to be give and take and as a safety professional, I had to look at safety from the viewpoint of someone who is running a business and who needs to make money in order to pay their employees. Working together with management and constantly reviewing costs, was the only way I was going to get my point across with the support of management. At the end of the day, money does talk and when you can show how much they can save when they take on health and safety as a real part of the business, then you have their attention. Obviously, this does not go for every company out there, I have seen plenty of businesses big and small who take health and safety very seriously and incorporate fantastic initiatives that make their sites safe to work on.

What’s first?

Before a company can get to the stage where they truly appreciate the value of health, safety and wellness of workers, they have to be shown why it’s important to them, (not to you!). Make it about the finances, the bad press and the possibility of the site being shut down! Once they understand the importance, they will realise the benefits. In my experience and opinion, if you have senior management that are willing to come on board and are personally attached to the human side, you will see safety changing for the better – and faster.

What are the costs and the benefits?

You can absolutely have a successful business without considering health and safety. However, what is your definition of success? Maybe your company has a huge turnover, but how many accidents is your company having? How many lost days? How many insurance claims? How many doctors’ bills? How many man hours are you spending on investigations to the accidents? How many times have your breached legislation? How many near misses? To me, that is not a successful business. That is a business that is on the brink of a serious accident that could close your whole company down. A successful company owns the area of health and safety and treats it like any other pillar of the business.

Benefits

  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Fewer lost days
  • Reduction in manhours used to investigate accidents
  • Lower health costs
  • Brand value and goodwill
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved corporate and social responsibility
  • Investor confidence
  • Employee motivation and confidence
  • Prevention on fatalities and serious injuries
  • Employee retention

Costs

  • Hiring a health and safety professional internally or an external consultant
  • Investment in training and refresher training
  • Improvements to the site (plant, machinery)
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Document control (from visitors to contractors)

It’s true to say that the return on your investment in health and safety is rarely immediate. The truth is there is a risk of much higher costs in the future, due to the possibility of health and safety systems failing.
A robust and well-oiled health and safety programme might not just save you money against future costs, it could also save you money from costs that are already eating into your business profits.
Consider your organisation and the people you have in it, the cost of a well-managed health and safety system, and compare that with the implications of not having it. Rather than asking if you can you afford a health and safety system, ask yourself can you afford not to?

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