The UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 affords employees the legal right to a reasonably safe working environment, and lets both them and their employers know what their obligations are. For a business, the benefits of keeping their employees as safe as possible are clear:
- Happier, more loyal employees – if staff don’t believe their company has their best interests at heart then they won’t be inclined to stay.
- Better hiring prospects – simultaneously, if a company has a reputation for taking safety in the workplace seriously, it becomes an attractive employer for prospective candidates.
- Fewer compensation claims – if a member of staff becomes ill or injured and the company is deemed to be at fault, it can be liable for thousands, if not millions of pounds in compensation.
- Greater productivity – the less time employees need to spend off work due to sickness or injury, the more work gets done!
Here’s how businesses can help to keep their employees safe, and therefore happier…
When employees are exposed to loud environments, such as in factories, nightclubs, or on building sites, their hearing can be damaged in just a short time without sufficient protection. Employers can arrange free-of-charge hearing tests on their behalf with specialist providers like HH, which can identify problems with hearing before they become severe, and offer suggestions on how they can be mitigated.
Similarly, people who spend long hours sat in front of bright screens can suffer from vision problems after a while, and sight tests can also be booked on an annual basis. A company might also need to contribute towards equipment including ear protectors, or screen magnifiers.
Another good move for employers is to minimise back and neck injuries – some of the most common reasons why people have to take time off work – from occurring by installing chairs that promote good posture. These range from the affordable to the ludicrously expensive. Proactive monitoring such as this helps to prevent common complaints from developing into anything more serious.
Carrying out a full risk assessment might cover not just the actual work premises, but also the routes employees take to work and their methods of travel, and the different places they need to visit such as when salespeople go off-site. It would also include the nature of individual roles, so discussing what hazards a deskbound admin operative faces compared to someone working in a busy warehouse environment.
Once the risk assessment is complete a comprehensive H&S system can be put in place that identifies new hazards and challenges as they appear, such as when electrical or structural work has to be carried out in the office, or if a new member of staff with hearing, vision or mobility difficulties joins the team.
What might be included in a standard risk assessment and H&S system? For example, looking at tripping dangers in walkways such as boxes and loose wiring, or problems with insufficient lighting in car parks that female employees need to visit at night, which might make them feel unsafe.
Ultimately everyone that works for a business has a stake in and responsibility for good health and safety. Dealing with issues should begin at an executive level and go all the way down, but contributions or ideas from all staff members on how improvements can be made are vital. And it’s not just about flagging up a dangerous wiring job in the canteen, but little things such as if an employee gets a bad cold, they should be encouraged to take a few days off to fully recover, rather than making them feel forced to come into work where they will feel awful, not work as well as normal, and no doubt infect their colleagues as well. Regular training on health and safety matters should be factored in to cover these and many other points.
It makes sense for companies to record accidents in the workplace, especially if the industry is one that is prone to problems such as construction or farming. Keeping track of the frequency, type and severity of injuries will help to produce ways of avoiding them in future, and inspire confidence in clients that this is a company that takes the safety of its employees seriously.