HEALTH AND SAFETY UNDER FIRE!
SOME floorlayers say they fear arriving at a new job and be confronted by an over-zealous site manager demanding strict observance of health & safety regulations intended for workers in more dangerous jobs. That could mean floorlayers trying to work while wearing cumbersome industrial gloves along with protective safety goggles, a hard hat, plus a boiler suit, in addition to a high-visibility jacket.
That situation gives ammunition to cynics who question the need for stringent regulations, quoting extreme health & safety enforcement cases, including many based on myth. The fact is that 27.3 million working days a year are lost due to work-related illness and injury which costs the UK over £14 billion a year, according to latest figures. Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations with serious injury, or even death, lurking at every turn.
Unfortunately, the cynics have the ear of the Conservative Government which committed at the last election to slash £10 billion of ‘red tape’ in areas including health & safety. For example, the Tories have cut funding to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) by over 40%, and made it much harder for workers to claim compensation after being injured or made ill.
Some Tories are even calling for the abolition of the HSE, reminiscent of the 19th Century when the Conservatives at the time, say historians, ‘supported workhouses as a way to ‘discourage people from claiming poor relief!’ Sound familiar? Fast forward to the 21st Century and for ‘poor relief’ read ‘tax credits’, ‘income support’, ‘housing benefits’, etc.
In reality, Britain has come a long way since the Dickensian workhouses where workers’ wellbeing and welfare were hardly considered. Improvements in recent decades, notably with the wider acceptance of risk management practices, have led to a big fall in deaths and injuries, giving the UK one of the safest construction industries in the world.
So instead of viewing health & safety as a regulatory burden, it should be seen as having major benefits for everyone, not least flooring contractors and other companies working in the construction sector, which contributes over 6% to our GDP.
For a start, surely it is sound business sense to ensure that all your workers go home safe and well after a day’s work. But that is only one of the many advantages. Overall, health & safety has been shown to help to promote higher levels of innovation while delivering economic growth.
For individual business owners the benefits can include lower insurance premiums; decreased labour and material costs; less employee absence and reduced staff turnover rates; significantly higher productivity because employees are healthier, happier and more motivated; fewer risks; diminished threat of legal action; improved standing among suppliers and partners; and last but not least, a better reputation for corporate responsibility among your customers and local communities.
And who can argue with any of that?