• 12 November 2014

Season of Safety looks at what organisations need to do to ensure health and safety standards are met

Seton’s ongoing Season of Safety has taken a closer look at how well organisations and individuals are dealing with important health and safety needs.

To look at this in more detail, Seton sought the opinion of Stephen Thomas, Chairman of the Seton Health and Safety Law Group, to get his expert view on how the situation could be improved.

Stephen Thomas is also a safety technical consultant specialising in H&S management systems with an emphasis on sensible Risk Management and compliance with recognised standards.

Among the key findings of Seton’s Season of Safety research were that more than half of the UK workforce could be being put at risk by inadequate health and safety measures and 60% of senior decision makers at small and medium enterprises feeling their employer does “not fully meet” their health and safety needs.

Commenting, Stephen Thomas said:

“It’s clear that no matter how your company operates, looking after health and safety has numerous benefits including protecting your bottom line and offering a good return on investment. However, it also means you can avoid potentially crippling fines and even imprisonment.”

Bearing all this in mind, Stephen insists that companies should ensure they are meeting basic health and safety standards by:

  • Providing the right hardware (effective guards, safety equipment)
  • Improving employee performance (selection and training, incentives and reward schemes)
  • Improving management and organisation by introducing safety management systems.
  • Developing a strong safety culture from the top level down to positively influence human behaviour at work to reduce errors and violations.

Seton’s in-depth research revealed that 32% of respondents say they are aware of at least one incident in the last 12 months that could have been avoided if health and safety had been managed correctly – while 14% say they aren’t aware of anyone who is trained in health and safety at their workplace.

Stephen added:

“It highlights some serious issues for companies, which can find themselves subject to legal enforcement where accidents have occurred as a result of negligence. In addition, this can lead to further costs like the loss of future contracts. Likewise, an apparent lack of training in the workplace indicates firms are failing to meet the legal requirement of having a competent health and safety trained person on staff.

“However, like tax or employment law, this should be treated as a specialist discipline and not simply palmed off to general staff or treated as a secondary job. In short, companies should ask themselves, don’t all employees have the basic right to return unhurt after a day’s work?”

The research also found that some industries perform better than others, with the transportation and distribution sector coming out among the worst. It was revealed that 73% of workers in this field said they feel their health and safety needs are “not fully met”, with those in medical and health services just behind on 70%. Manufacturing and education fare only a little better, with 66% and 65% of workers respectively feeling more could be done.

Stephen went onto say:

“Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) too should also prompt action from companies who are falling behind in this area, as around 4.3 million working days were found to be lost in 2011/12 due to workplace injuries. A further 22.7 million were lost due to work-related illness – and in the construction industry alone 584,000 working days were lost due to workplace injury, equivalent to a total of 0.7 days lost per worker. In 2012/13, things were found to be even worse, with 5.2 million days lost to injury across the trades.

“It’s worth remembering too that the consequences for failing to prevent accidents can be fatal. HSE figures show construction is the sector where the most deaths at work occur, responsible as it is for 27% of fatalities and 10% of major injuries. This is despite only around 5% of British workers operating in this area.

Concluding, he stated:

“So, weighing all this up, it’s well worth acting sooner rather than later to make your workplace safe for all.”