Small businesses make safety pay

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

A 2006 HSE study found that whatever the original motivation for improving health and safety performance, 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, IOSH’s ‘Safety in numbers?’ survey, underlined just how good for business health and safety interventions can be. Of the 1001 SME decision makers who took part, one in seven were able to pinpoint financial gains of more than £1000 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. 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 resource for health and safety and more likely to depend on external consultants. Finding the right partner, who can hand-hold the business through their health and safety development, to achieve the right objectives, is key.

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