Health & Safety best practices

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What is Health & Safety?

Health is the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being. Safety is freedom from harm or danger.

In the occupational setting, the two are often combined into one discipline as occupational Health & Safety to ensure a stronger focus on improving the safety of a working environment, implementing safe working methods and ensuring that employees do not pose a threat to one-another.

At its core, Health & Safety is all about identifying potential hazards i.e. the things around us that can harm us. It is crucial to assess the likelihood of their occurrence and their potential consequences. Then, one can establish preventive/protective controls to reduce their risks to levels that are As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). Using a systematic approach like this is the bread and butter to an effective Health & Safety Management System.

Why should organizations champion Health & Safety?

There are 3 main arguments.

  1. The moral argument that an accident in the workplace highlights an unethical approach on the part of employers that may have cut corners and put their employees at risk. Hence companies need to exercise reasonable care for the safety and health of their workers and all those who may be affected by the business activities of the firm, in order to avoid injury, pain and suffering.

  2. The economic argument that the direct and indirect costs of an accident are very expensive. This can be explained using the iceberg analogy: that for every £1 pound recovered from insured cost to cover injuries, ill health and damages, between £8 to £36 are not recovered and have to be paid from profit. The loss of employee working hours is also hugely costly, and there is also a hidden cost in the reduced productivity and motivation of workers.

  3. The legal argument that workplace accidents can attract criminal and civil liabilities for breach of duty of care. This is where employers fail to ensure a safe workplace especially when they know or ought to have known the presence of risk in their operations. According to the ILO, employees have a right to a safe workplace.

Why is Health & Safety important?

A safe and secure workplace improves efficiency of work, increases productivity and improves the corporate image of an organization. Maintaining Health & Safety also prevents a company from receiving notices, fines and criminal charges. Eventually, it improves corporate profits and the longevity of a business.

How can we improve Health & Safety?

Health & Safety is everyone’s responsibility both at home and at the workplace. Employers must provide a safe workplace, a safe working environment, a safe system of work and adequate resources to improve safety. They must also ensure that their workforce is highly competent and that the workers can: look out for each other, identify, correct and report workplace hazards, participate in training, follow safety rules and use the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The role of a Health & Safety professional is to assist both the employer and employees to exercise their duty of care, comply with applicable Health & Safety legislations and to follow industry Best Practices.

If you are a Health & Safety professional thinking of publishing some Best Practices to add to the profession, here is the place for you.

For more information:

On Healthy & Safety Management Systems - https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Managing_Health_and_Safety/Safety_and_Health_Management_Systems/

On the Occupational Safety and Health Act - https://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/occupational-safety-and-health-act.asp

On the importantance of Health & Safety - https://www.breathehr.com/blog/why-is-health-and-safety-important-in-the-workplace

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