UK flagging on health and safety

Is it time to start worrying more about your employees' well-being than your bottom line?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

That's certainly what Premierline Direct would argue. The insurer surveyed SMEs on their approach to health and safety, and was shocked to find that ‘increasing profits, investing in sales and marketing and gaining the funds to grow were considered more important than staff welfare and safety'.

Now we don't want to sound callous. Of course the well-being of staff should be a key concern for employers - especially when, as Premierline points out, the Health and Safety Executive says injuries and accidents are costing business more than £3bn a year. But you'd have to be pretty naïve to think that investing in the pursuit of healthy profits wouldn't always be a priority for the average growing business. And it's hardly a boost to an employee's health to find themselves out of a job of a Monday morning because their bosses blew their scant budget on ergonomic chairs rather than finding clients. 

So what kind of responses sparked this call to arms? The insurer found that 61% of respondents don't have a formal written health and safety policy in place, while 78% said they haven't amended it in the last year. The government's Health and Safety Executive does say that companies of five or more employees ‘should' have a written policy. Of course, given how negatively the average boss views the whole health and safety circus, that does read like an invitation not to bother.

Meanwhile 83% of respondents said they already spend more than enough time on prioritising health and safety issues, thank you very much. Again, we'd like to find out who makes up the 17% who are apparently keen for more red tape.

But we concede that more could always be done to make employees fitter, happier and (as a result) more productive. Especially when we're talking concrete practical improvements. Sadly Premierline's survey found a few glaring omissions in that department: only a quarter of SMEs encourage staff to have regular eye tests, and just 26% ensure staff have a comfortable workstation. Only 22% provide cleaning staff with appropriate protective clothing, while only 38% of SMEs said they regularly test their fire safety kit. And that is a legal requirement.

We suggest a happy balance - bosses should look after their people but, whatever they do, they mustn't forget to make that precious moolah. But we're sure you don't need to be told that.

In today's bulletin:

Bank holds rates - but house prices on the slide
Man United owners see red with Goldman over Jim O'Neill
Willie Walsh insists BA will stay airborne through cabin crew strike
UK flagging on health and safety
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