Health and safety regulations might be the scourge of newspaper columnists, but they play an essential role in the workplace. It remains an unfortunate fact that there are thousands of accidents in the workplace each and every year, and they can have very serious consequences. Some people find themselves laid up for weeks or even months on end following an accident in the workplace – while others are simply unable to work to the same capacity as they were prior to their accident. It should go without saying that many of us can simply ill-afford this inconvenience, particularly given the widespread financial insecurity millions of households are experiencing at present. This is why it’s so important to remain vigilant.
Each year, tens of millions of working days are lost as a result of illness and injuries at workplaces across the UK – in 2010/11, this figure stood at 26.4 million – and there are more than 600,000 injuries at work in Britain each year, along with around 1.8 million cases of ill health brought on or exacerbated by work. Unfortunately, the pressures currently facing many businesses are often likely to translate into increased pressure on workers – and this can increase the risk of accidents, stress or other work-related conditions. The accident rate at small businesses, particularly small manufacturers, can sometimes be higher than that for larger enterprises. The sheer scale of the problem ought to make it clear that we need to remain on our guard against workplace accidents.
There is a tendency among some employers to complain about the perceived burden of health and safety regulations – and if the rate of accidents and work-related illnesses is low, it’s not hard to see how a particular business might question the need for those safeguards. However, it could be argued that low rates of work-related illnesses and accidents are evidence that health and safety regulations are merely doing their job. Besides, it’s just good business sense to ensure that the well-being of workers is protected. Workers who are subjected to stress and injury are, after all, likely to be less productive. This is why it’s important to be on our guard against complacency and short-sightedness when it comes to health and safety.
Employers must ensure that they have a robust system in place to manage health and safety. Preventative measures must be put in place and clearly communicated to those in the workplace. It is also essential for employers to make sure that they employ someone who is competent in these matters to help them with the legal side of things. Potential hazards must be clearly identified, while risk control measures must be adequate for their task and should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are still up to the job.
Although safety in the workplace is the ultimate responsibility of the employer, it’s important to engage with all levels of the workforce. Encourage workers to report potential hazards and other safety issues they encounter, and be sure to consult with employees and their safety representatives on a regular basis. By working together, you can maintain a safe workplace – something which is in your collective interest.
This guest blog was contributed by Lesley Sampson, a blogger who often writes about workplace legal issues and who is keen to help you avoid expensive accident at work claims (www.more4ulawyers.co.uk/what-to-claim-for/accidents-at-work).
How you ever had any accidents at work? How did you handle it?
Image credit, Yodod, Flickr