Industrial Safety in the UK: A Civic Duty?

Man and woman wearing safety clothing, gloves, hard hats, and goggles in front of a petrochemical plant, demonstrating good industrial safety.

In places like the UK, where the medical system is socialized, industrial safety, or lack thereof, doesn’t just impact the injured party and company, but also society as a whole. Literally everyone pays for poor industrial safety and health management. Keeping employees safe could thus be considered an employer’s civic duty.

Why Safety Should Be a Top Priority, Regardless

Beyond not wanting to see employees get hurt and doing your part for the good of all tax payers, employers should focus on safety because it makes good business sense. When you unpack the true costs of injuries, both direct and indirect, it’s a wonder why any company would not make safety its top priority.

Let’s go over a few of the downsides of poor safety compliance:

  • Workflow disruption
  • Lower employee morale
  • Paid time off
  • Cost of hiring temporary workers
  • Damaged or ruined equipment

That’s just to name a few. There’s also the cost of lost opportunity. A safe workplace results in happier, more productive workers. Employees who feel taken care of tend to return to work more quickly after an illness or injury and stay with the company longer. Replacing experienced employees is a huge expense.

Getting Beyond the Basics

Every workplace safety program will cover the basics such as supplying safety equipment like gloves and goggles, where needed, and evacuation plans. Some of the other common industrial safety topics to cover—several of which should be addressed at every toolbox talk—include the following:

  • Back injury prevention
  • Laceration prevention
  • Safe handling of hazardous materials
  • Safe operation of machinery
  • Fatigue mitigation
  • Trip and fall prevention
  • Repetitive stress mitigation

This video provides a more in-depth look at general industrial safety:

There is always more that can be done to promote safety. Because every workplace is different, every safety regime needs to address the unique hazards of that space and assess the specific industrial safety products needed.

A key element to creating your specific safety protocol is employee feedback. As employees are the ones on the floor, they’re in the best position to identify actual or potential hazards and whether or not the safety equipment is adequate and effective. Safety is a team effort.

Where to Focus Safety Efforts? Consult Public Health Records

Circling back to addressing workplace safety as a civic duty, one source to consider when exploring where to focus your health and safety efforts is health-related statistics in your country, region, or area.

But first, consider this, from the House of Commons Library Publication “Accident and Emergency Statistics”: A&E visits in England are most common during business hours. This indicates that many of these incidents are happening at work, so focusing on workplace safety can certainly make an impact on reducing those numbers—your safety efforts can have a civic impact.

Also, though employers can’t prevent every accident or ailment a person may experience outside of work, instilling strong safe and healthy workplace protocols can have spillover. Most people spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, so education and habits developed there are likely to have a positive impact on the rest of a person’s life, too.

Another interesting fact that is highlighted in the A&E statistics is that, of working-age people, it’s those between 20 and 24 years old who experience the most A&E visits. This highlights that it’s especially important to focus on this demographic for safety education and compliance. Perhaps create a mentor program, where you team a more experienced, older, safer worker with a young counterpart.

What Ailments Are Most Costly?

Another type of resource to consult for health and safety ideas is one that shows what types of treatments cost the medical system the most. A recent study in the UK reveals that diabetes costs the country over £10 billion annually, and wound care costs £5.3 billion. One of the most common types of wounds treated are leg and ankle ulcers, which are commonly suffered by diabetics.

As diabetes is linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, employers can do their part by encouraging fitness and healthy eating. Stock cafeterias with whole food options and replace fizzy drinks in vending machines with water or nutritious selections.

Find a local 5km run and enter a company team. Reward bike commuting and offer to chip in for gym memberships. Encourage employees to take regular breaks and stretch or get moving.

Get creative with getting your workers in good health. This will not only lower the chances of your workforce becoming diabetic, it will reduce illness and make for more alert and focused workers.

Your Better Industrial Safety Track Record and Your Better Public Image

Your exceptional safety record will extend beyond reducing costs and making workers happier. It will greatly contribute to a fantastic public image. It’s a feature your company can highlight, generating feel-good points because you treat your workforce well and don’t squander tax dollars.

You’ll attract more customers because people like to know they’re buying products from companies with a conscience. It’s also generally a much nicer customer experience when doing business with employees who are treated well. This is because your good reputation will attract a higher caliber of employee. This harder working and happier workforce then creates higher quality products and services more efficiently.

That’s the kind of win-win situation that’s worth all the efforts to improve your industrial safety track record, and thereby do your part for civic well-being.

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