Health and safety costs money doesn't it? Installing safety devices, training, monitoring, checks and inspections, not to mention the time spent on paperwork, it all adds up. So how can health and safety save you money?
Many businesses, at some time or another, have seen health and safety as a burden. As a restriction. As something that needs to be complied with. As red tape. And yes, employers have legal health and safety responsibilities. And it's true, health and safety measures cost money. But there is also a return on investment, and of course, a cost to not having any health and safety measures in place.
Health and safety can become a burden, but only if it is ignored. After all, court cases, insurance claims, sickness pay, recruiting replacement staff, accident investigations, fines, enforcement action. That all costs money, time and effort to resolve. If you get health and safety right in the first place, you can save yourself the headache and the consequences, of getting it wrong.
Before we look at some examples, let's consider some of the benefits that your business might expect from having good health and safety management systems in place.
And all of those benefits are good news, not only for preventing harm but also for your bottom line. Fewer problems, better performance, and more work. Win, win, win.
These benefits are a return on investment for health and safety. So, to get these rewards, you have to make an initial investment to start. In health and safety terms, this can involve some time, money and effort, putting health and safety controls, measures and procedures in place.
For a simple example, say there is a cost of £50 to install a guard rail to an open edge. There is no other purpose to that guard than to stop people, and materials, falling. So the cost of health and safety here is £50. But let's consider that you didn't install that guard, and a tool or other item fell from the ledge, hitting a person who was working below. Now that person is injured, and off work for two weeks, the costs in downtime, staff cover, equipment damage, and an investigation could be around £600 in additional costs (and that's without looking at any possible payouts, fines and legal costs that may follow).
So really, if you look at a £50 safety measure that could have prevented that accident, you have a £550 saving. That's a decent return. And money isn't everything, you also prevented pain and suffering.
Of course, it is not always possible to see a direct comparison, because these two scenarios won't both play out. You will either install the guard rail or you won't. You don't always see that £550 saving, you might just see that £50 cost, and not ever consider that you have just saved your business a whole lot of cash, and a whole load of hassle. And of course, saved one of your employees a whole lot of pain from a bang on the head!
This is just a simple example, but you can learn from other health and safety failings to appreciate the cost of failing to put in place good health and safety management.
£15 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2017/18)
Health and safety failures cost the UK economy an estimated £15 billion a year, according to HSE statistics, with around 28,200,000 working days lost each year.
With health and safety the return on investment rarely immediate. In our simple guard rail example, if you didn't install the guard rail, you might not have an accident from that open edge for a week or even months. That could be looked at as a saving of £50. But ultimately, there is a risk of much higher costs in the future, due to failing to provide that health and safety measure.
Health and safety measures might not just save you money against future costs. Health and safety measures might also save you money from costs that are already eating into your business profits.
For example, a business might identify a problem with manual handling within the workforce. Regular absences due to back issues, slips, trips and falls, and general accidents and ill health surrounding the movement of materials on site. Adding up the costs of absences, loss of productivity, downtime, staff cover, staff turnover and recruitment costs, over a year, is costing this fictional business in the region of £50,000 additional costs.
Once this loss has been identified, the business invests £10,000 in extra measures including new equipment, training, a campaign to raise awareness and better monitoring.
Just by focusing more attention and resources on this one area of the health and safety, the business could, for example, save a staggering 50% of the costs they were experiencing due to poor manual handling practices.
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The above might be a fictional example, but the potential cost savings are real.
When looking at the cost of health and safety, don't just think about how much you will need to spend in the short term to put better health and safety practices and procedures in the place. Also, consider the savings that you could make in the long term. By creating a safe and healthy environment for your workforce, the future of your business is in safe hands.
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