During difficult economic times such as we’re seeing at the moment, companies throughout the country are trying to make cutbacks in any way they can. But government ministers, unions and business leaders have all warned that the recession must not be an excuse to cut back on health and safety.
There have been numerous health and safety cases lately, many having ended in large payments in favour of employees. One building company was fined £15,000 after a worker suffered a fall from a roof and ended up paralysed. There is growing concern that financial pressure felt by companies as a result of the economic downturn will have the effect of reducing necessary safety measures, and lead to more accidents.
The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, has highlighted the need for maintaining H & S standards in a recession, implying that the consequences of cutting back in this area are potentially serious.
Lord McKenzie, a DWP minister with a portfolio including Health and Safety at work, emphasized that financial burdens wouldn’t be acknowledged as a credible excuse by the Health & Safety Executive for falling standards.
In addition, the charity the British Safety Council (BSC), has said that one in twelve employees feels pressured to take chances with their own and colleagues safety in order to cut costs. Moreover, one in ten employees is worried about voicing opinions about health and safety in the present recession.
The BSC’s statistics are unsettling for organisations on two counts. It is ‘front-line’ employees that are most conscious of the substance of health and safety in any organisation, and any issues raised by these staff members must be taken on board. That a lesser number of workers now feel unable to voice such concerns must ultimately be a significant worry.
Moreover, health and safety has a vital effect on your organisation’s profit. Staff who have a sense of safety are more likely to work harder. Seventy per cent say they would feel that there would an increased likelihood in more significant productivity if they assumed their manager was in tune with their health and safety issues. Therefore, managers and directors who take proactive measures to enhance working conditions are likely to reap the benefits of more productive and efficient employees.
Organisations must strive to ensure that investing in health and safety courses continue to be a key factor in all businesses decisions. Whilst the recession has reflected severe hardship for many firms, employees’ safety is one of the most important areas that cannot be allowed to become the victim of austerity.