At Make UK, we work with organisations that collectively employ millions of people, across the UK and overseas, and support many millions more with their products and services. Our focus is on helping the organisations we partner with to perform and grow. However, between the tough economic climate and skills shortage, the outlook for 2023 isn’t looking too bright.
In this blog post we explain why having a robust safety culture, a value lived by workers and driven from the top down, is critical and how it can mitigate some of the risks businesses are facing.
Attract and retain talent
It is well known that staff shortages can cause health and safety risks; both physical and mental safety, as increased stress threatens the wellbeing of employees. Having an effective safety culture can help ensure that, even during difficult times, an organisation is robust enough to ensure standards do not slip. Businesses who protect their people, by keeping them healthy and safe, will be better able to attract and retain talent.
More than just box ticking
Strictly speaking, safety culture can be audited. In the brief guide to Health & Safety training (INDG 345) issued by the HSE it states that training is required to: “develop a positive health and safety culture, where safe and healthy working becomes second nature to everyone”. However, safety culture should not be just a box ticking exercise because this will never create and sustain a framework that holds the belief in place.
A solid investment
The financial costs of accidents and occupational ill health can be significant. According to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, in the financial year 2021/22 there were 1.8 million cases of work-related ill health in the UK and a further 36.8 million days lost to UK industry. This cost UK industry £18.8 billion! Additionally, in terms of enforcement, in 2019/20 there were 2,929 notices served by the HSE, 185 cases prosecuted resulting in £26.9m of fines. Investing in developing a strong safety culture can help to mitigate risk can reduce costs further down the line.
We’ve already mentioned the legal and financial implications of not having a good health and safety culture but the moral argument will triumph every single time. Having a robust safety culture can help your organisation avoid the distress that accidents and ill health cause. Knowing you could have done something to prevent an accident is something that stays with a person long after fines have been paid or, in more serious cases, jail time has been served.
Raise the bar
A common feature of organisations with a mature safety culture is that regulatory compliance is rarely their main driver. Employees’ awareness of the importance of health and safety in more developed organisations is often built on an understanding that leaders in the business put a value on protecting them which leads to higher standards than the regulatory minima, making compliance a side-benefit. In essence, by setting our own standards we can raise the bar.