The cost-benefit analysis of Health and Safety at Work

Last year, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) published a research report that examined the economic aspects of occupational health and safety interventions in the workplace for small and medium-sized businesses.

Workers wearing safety hatsIt is, of course, every organisation’s moral and legal duty to protect staff from workplace dangers and to pro-actively promote employee wellbeing. The range of considerations can be huge particularly in higher risk sectors such as construction, warehousing, manufacturing and catering. Clearly all employees should have the right training and equipment which is regularly maintained. Sometimes steps can be taken that are not so immediately obvious such as ensuring floors are non-slip (this is easily achieved by coating the floors with non-slip paints such as Rawlins anti slip paint.)

The majority of small businesses tend to view Health and Safety as a burden, but the EU-OSHA shows how this responsibility can bring significant financial benefits too.

Reasons for taking health and safety seriously

The EU-OSHA’s report, entitled: “The business case for safety and health at work: Cost-benefit analyses of interventions in small and medium-sized enterprises,” revealed that SMEs are the backbone of Europe’s economy. In fact, they are responsible for 67 per cent of employment in the EU.

Even so, findings suggest that these same workers are disproportionately likely to be involved in an accident or suffer an injury because of poor occupational health and safety. Overall, 82 per cent of occupational injuries and 90 per cent of workplace fatalities happen in SME businesses.

Therefore, it is imperative that small and medium-sized enterprises take health and safety seriously, as avoidable incidents can lead to the loss of a trained worker, possible legal action, a damaged reputation and poor sales performance.

Making a case for health and safety

To convince SMEs that a comprehensive health and safety policy not only avoids the worst-case scenario but can also boost business output, the EU-OSHA looked at existing literature on cost-benefit evaluations and presented 13 case studies on interventions.

Each one examined the costs and benefits associated with health and safety changes to see whether the interventions were beneficial from a purely financial point of view. In total, 11 of the 13 case studies were profitable by the end of a five-year period.

Along with the monetary merits of interventions, the report also provides SMEs with additional advantages for implementing stronger health and safety measures as well as what is required when carrying out a cost-benefit analysis. But while some SMEs believe that complying with health and safety regulations is simply a necessary evil, the report aims to change this attitude.

Overcoming negative attitudes towards health and safety

The EU-OSHA wants to promote the idea that health and safety is key to running a successful business, not just preventing injuries and ill health.

Productivity gains are benefits related to a more efficient working process, resulting in extra production, lower costs or less time spent by employees on a particular task,” notes the report. “The idea is that an OSH intervention can result in greater productivity or efficiency. Other benefits can be important to consider in decision-making on OSH interventions but are often difficult to express in monetary units, such as job satisfaction, corporate image and staff turnover.”

While other challenges include the cost of implementing health and safety policy, increased workloads for staff, and a reluctance to change, SMEs must work hard to relate the cost and business benefits of interventions to the entire workforce.

Article by Patrick Vernon on behalf of Rawlins Paints.