We often see the phrase ‘safety is our number one priority’, in marketing literature, company posters, in health and safety policies and other documentation.
Of course, health and safety is an important aspect of running any business. It is particularly important in high risk industries such as construction.
As health and safety professionals we spend a lot of time visiting client sites, and as we specialise in construction work, often find ourselves on construction sites undertaking site inspections and audits.
You can really tell the difference between and site that has health and safety right, and those that are missing the mark.
In construction, when the site has health and safety right, not only is the documentation in order, but the whole site runs better.
When it is safe to move around, the site is laid out well and work areas are clean and tidy workers are generally more productive.
This is true of all industries, not just construction.
But is safety really the businesses number one priority.
Firstly, because it is a business. The number one priority will always be financial. This is not a cynical view, it is how the world works, businesses are run to make a profit (or at least cover costs). If a business doesn't it is unlikely to last in the long term.
Secondly, because your top priority is to deliver your business service.
If you are a construction company, your number one priority is to build things.
If you are a manufacturer, your priority is to make products.
If you are an educational establishment, your priority is to teach, etc etc.
Can health and safety help you achieve your top priorities? Of course!
Without completing the work you do safely, - delays, fines, shutdowns, labour shortages, investigations etc are all going to hit your finances and your ability to deliver your business service.
Health and safety should be a top priority in any workplace.
Not only to comply with the law but also so the business can thrive.
However, health and safety practices, to be effective, must complement other business priorities, and not restrict company growth.
Good health and safety management will ensure that you can achieve your number one priority, running a successful business, without causing harm to those you employ or others.
Through minimising hazards, and controlling risks.
A positive health and safety culture will enhance the business, rather than restrict its growth.
Is health and safety the number one priority? No. Is it a top priority that should be part of every business decision? Absolutely.