Fitter, happier, more productive

Health and safety representative talking to an employee

Building trust in business starts with taking responsibility for health and safety, from the boardroom to the shopfloor

If you look at any ranking of the most successful or admired companies, you’re likely to notice that the ones towards the top of the list will have some qualities in common. Companies that lead the way tend to share a number of key attributes, ranging from a determination to improve constantly to a focus on building sustainable value.

One of the less acknowledged of these success factors is a deep commitment to employees’ wellbeing and a culture that values workplace safety. This may take many forms, but at its heart it centres on caring about everyone’s wellbeing, safety and health – from the factory floor to the call centre, the depot to the sales office.

The businesses that take this crucial aspect of working life seriously and invest in it will benefit in various ways: more talented people want to work for them than for the competition; more consumers want to buy from them; and more potential business partners want to collaborate with them. They will also tend to achieve cost savings through efficient systems and be more innovative than the average company, thanks to the enhanced employee engagement and trust that a focus on safety, health and wellbeing can engender.

Taking responsibility

More and more employers are waking up to the fact that they can no longer ignore this factor. Indeed, the coming year will see a greater preoccupation at board level with creating safe, healthy and sustainable work cultures. A new international standard for safety and health at work, ISO 45001, will be issued in early 2018, encouraging reporting on performance in worker protection. And the prospect of a seven-figure fine for a health and safety failure is among the developments that will focus the minds of directors.

This marks a step change in the way that organisations manage health and safety, which has propelled the issue from the back office to the boardroom. As with so many business trends, it’s a response to a societal transformation. Health and safety at work is a significant driver for the “social conduct” element of corporate social responsibility. This is why the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (Iosh) is advising employers to take enhanced action and report externally on their health and safety performance in 2018. Iosh believes that this would help them to demonstrate to stakeholders their commitment to transparency and continual improvement.

A place of safety

This significant development in workplace wellbeing is also a response to the labour market and the emerging attitudes of workers who seek socially responsible employers. They are naturally attracted to firms with caring cultures, which offer benefits such as flexible working, free gym membership and employee assistance schemes.

Providing a healthy workplace can give your enterprise a real competitive advantage. Yorkshire Water, for example, improved its training for managers in handling stress and introduced a number of measures for staff in 2013, saving £800,000 in sick pay and cover for absent employees over two years.

Next year there will be few smarter investments than those in developing the knowledge and skills required to create a safe and healthy working culture.

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Director commercial and sales

Director commercial and sales

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