Small businesses make safety pay

Whilst David Cameron is busy waging his war on what he calls Britain’s health and safety “monster”, more enlightened directors of SMEs are increasingly aware of the business benefits that can arise from establishing a good reputation for health and safety.

A 2006 HSE study found that whatever the original motivation for improving health and safety management, all of the SMEs studied perceived wider benefits both tangible and intangible. One such director is quoted saying: “The benefits to our business of revolutionising our health and safety systems and placing it at the heart of what we do are very extensive. Not only do we now have higher staff morale and lower sickness, it also significantly benefits the retention of existing customers, and it is a real differentiator when winning new business and helping the company to expand.”

More recently, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s Safety in numbers? survey published this summer underlined just how good for business health and safety interventions can be. Of the 1,001 decision-makers with workforces up to 250 employees, one in seven survey respondents were able to pinpoint financial gains of more than £1,000 for their businesses. Furthermore, 31 per cent felt better health and safety management would result in higher productivity, 26 per cent said it would improve staff retention, and 20 per cent believed it would lead to increased business for their companies.

The fact is that all businesses, large and small, are subject to the same health and safety regulations dependent upon what it is they do. This is unlikely to change. As Professor Ragnar LÖfstedt – commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions to carry out a review of health and safety legislation – points out, “the problem lies less with the regulations themselves and more with the way they are interpreted and applied”.

The additional challenge smaller businesses face is that they are less likely to have dedicated, professional resources for health and safety and more likely to depend on external consultants. Finding the right partner, who can hand-hold the business through the right process, to achieve the right objectives, is key.

Michael Emery
Securus Health & Safety Limited