Workplace health and safety - to comply or not to comply?

  • Workplace health and safety - to comply or not to comply?
Author: 
QDOS Consulting - www.qdoshr.com

To tale the hit or to comply that is the safety question! Top tips below.

Companies are still willing to take the risk of not complying with health and safety legislation and those caught out are being hit massively! Is this true? What do you mean?

Anecdotal evidence from a client has surfaced regarding a recent minor incident where a Managing Director intimated by saying '...it was only a small accident and will only cost us about £4,000...' This mentality shows the type of culture this enior figure is creating in his workplace and is dangerous as this minor accident may lead to something far worse due to the attitude of the organisations' leaders.

Major incidents of serious material breaches face investigation, criminal charges and possibly prosecution fines that could tip the balance of a company either making it through or breaking and creating a circumstance of people losing their jobs.

So, what are we likely to face fines in if we breach a safety regulation?

According to recent studies on the latest prosecution data for the Health and Safety Executive, businesses paid an average of £115,440 in fines when guilty of a safety breach. Yes that is expensive, but is it cheaper to comply? Of course, depending on the size of your company you can expect to pay between £5k and £40k to comply with legislation. What would you suggest this money pays for? Hard to say but it could include; investment in newer technology and machinery, competent specialist advice whether internally provided or external consultants, training, protective equipment, research and other staff levels. Again, your organisation size will determine your investment capabilities.

Which industries are worst hit?

Manufacturing and construction received the highest number of fines (215), due to their work, such as; working at height, working with gas, transport, dangerous equipment etc. However, the utilities and extractive industries will have far higher fines (avg. £409,729) but less of them (18).
We should consider, the costs shown are only the prosecution costs, health and safety failures will have many ongoing costs associated to it, such as; total of injuries and ill-health sustained, the reputational costs, especially if it makes national headlines, costs of the investigation, re-training, more staff overheads to cover people being off work etc., etc., etc.!

Ok, so you have convinced me that compliance with health and safety is a priority in how we operate, but can you clarify how we can do this?

Investment is key, decide on your preferred methods, as you know, health and safety can be a specialist area and depending on the size of your organisation, will help you decide on the amount of competence you require. Invest in an internal safety manager or training internal staff to be better at safety is one method. The other is to gain the support of an external consultancy company who will have provisions that your onsite employees can tap into to ensure that they are meeting compliance needs.

How else can external consultants help?

External consultants will provide the support mainly to SMEs who feel they don’t need to pay for another full salary. Consultants’ services will vary in demand, but can include; providing training, performing audits, offering a telephone and website service and documentation support to help your business comply. A little further work is required by the organisation to ensure that health and safety needs are being met, but always knowing there is the support of the consultant to rely upon when decisions, issues and compliance questions are raised.

Are there any tips to avoid fines?

  • Simply, do not cut costs at the expense of safe working.
  • Put good procedures in place.
  • Show how you tackle issues or staff concerns.
  • Have a good safety record and communicate with your staff. Improve your safety records through a good work culture.
  • This year, if there is one thing that is recommended from a health and safety perspective that I emphasise you should do, is review your safety practices with an audit, ensure your documents and risk assessments are up to date.

This won’t cost you a lot and could help you save a fortune in the future.

If you want help with your audit and review of arrangements, call Qdos Consulting Ltd on 01455 852028 and our experts can talk you through the process.

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