Small firms fear burgeoning health and safety costs

Will the Government's new 'workplace strategy' mean yet more money spent on complying with red tape?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Health and Safety Executive’s new workplace strategy is due out next month, and small firms are waiting with some trepidation. According to a new survey by the Forum of Private Business, a rather alarming 25% of small business owners are already worried about being prosecuted by the HSE over lax standards – and that’s before they start trying to comply with this ‘complex and costly’ legislation. Of course, ensuring the safety of staff is vitally important – but with the average owner/ manager already spending 14 hours per month filling in health and safety paperwork, it seems the system is trying both the patience and the finances of UK plc’s smaller fry…

The new strategy, which is due to drop on June 3, will apparently urge business owners not to cut corners on health and safety to make ends meet, while insisting that they work more closely with employees to improve health and safety and risk assessment. To the small business owner, this means more paperwork, more time and more money spent on maintaining an acceptable safety standard in the workplace. And we can see their beef: when you’re struggling to stay afloat, the last thing you want to be doing is putting more ‘may contain hot water’ signs on your kettle.

The FPB points out, quite rightly, that small businesses have enough on their plate at the moment, what with the whole pesky global recession/ declining demand/ credit restrictions/ late payment stuff, so higher health and safety compliance costs are the last thing they need. But the good news is that it’s doing its bit to help, by launching a website in conjunction with consultancy Cardinus ( This will provide online resources (like risk self-assessments) to help small firms comply – but with much less cost and hassle.

Small businesses do want to play ball. Well, 37% of them do: that’s the proportion that felt compliance was important in order to improve working practices and procedures. Alternatively, and perhaps more honestly, there was also another 19% who wanted peace of mind that their insurance policies were still valid. As box-checking exercises go, we guess this one’s probably more worthwhile than most.

In today's bulletin:

Yell chairman pensioned off amid RBS row
Mixed news for LSE as Dame Clara bows out
Recession big in Japan as economy slumps 4%
Small firms fear burgeoning health and safety costs
Do it right: Seven ways to leave gracefully

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