Be part of the solution – that’s the message to businesses in the south west from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as it launches its strategy to cut the number of deaths and injuries in the workplace.
The message comes as a survey reveals that the recession could make some workplaces more dangerous – more than 25% of businesses say they face pressure to cut spending on health and safety.
The survey also showed that almost half of Britain’s workers knew someone who has been injured at work or been made ill by their job.
The survey showed workers in the south west are the most likely to underestimate the number of serious injuries or deaths in the workplace: 42% of workers in the region estimate that fewer than 1,000 serious injuries and deaths happened in the workplace last year, compared to 24% of workers nationwide. The actual figure is 229 deaths and 27,976 major injuries across the country.
Eighty-two per cent of people in the region agreed that a healthy and safe work environment was important to them.
While HSE’s efforts are concentrated on clamping down on dangerous workplaces, the survey highlighted the myths that still exist, with a third of employees wrongly believing that HSE bans wearing flip flops at work or children playing with conkers.
In 2007 / 08 there were 28 deaths and 3,607 work related injuries in the south west and HSE new five year strategy sets out how employees and employers should work together to minimise risks while maintaining business competitiveness.
The strategy was launched by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell and the Chair of HSE, Judith Hackitt, alongside representatives from the Trade Union Congress and the Local Government Association.
HSE Regional Director for the South West, Terry Rose, said: “For businesses in the south west to consider cutting spending on health and safety this year is not only potentially dangerous, but could also be bad for business.
“Nearly eight out of 10 business leaders acknowledged that good health and safety standards are beneficial, with the cost of preventing accident almost always less than the disastrous costs of an accident in both financial and human terms.
“The survey clearly shows that both employers and workers alike overwhelmingly recognise that providing a safe workplace makes sound commercial sense and 65% of employees said that good health and safety practices made them feel valued.”
The new strategy sets out how:
• Healthy and safe work places are productive workplaces;
• The most effective way to improve health and safety is for senior management to show leadership;
• Sceptics perpetuate myths that trivialise the personal tragedies of others;
• A common sense approach to health and safety should be adopted by managers;
• HSE is making more than £1million of its publications available to download free and launching a new website on how businesses can improve their safety.
Chair of HSE Judith Hackitt said: “The HSE is not, and never will be, ‘the fun police’. Our new strategy shows the way towards a commonsense attitude to health and safety. As regulators, our approach to businesses will be proportionate to the risk they present and their approach to managing it. We are calling on employers and business owners to take the lead themselves in preventing the thousands of deaths every year which are caused by work – it is their moral and legal duty and it is good for the business.”
As part of the strategy launch, HSE is asking stakeholders to sign an online pledge including agreeing to playing their part in reducing the number of work related deaths.
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