Published On: Fri, Oct 26th, 2018

The Increasing Importance of Health and Safety: A 2018 Report

Health and safety have been necessary for workplaces from the get-go, but the real start of the industry and the government mandate of the practice only began during the Industrial Revolution. Work became both easier and more dangerous, but more importantly, employees were able to come together to form the first unions. It is their collective voice that demanded better working conditions and increased safety features to protect them while they were hard at work day after day.

The very first mandate in the western world came from the UK with their “Factory Acts.” This act was enforced due to concern over children’s health and safety in the cotton mills. This then led the bill to increase to protect women in the textile industry. It would be ten years later that a similar law would pass to protect mine workers, and nearly half a century before the concept of worker’s compensation was introduced.

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

In the United States, health and safety were not prioritized nor officially mandated until Richard Nixon passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act (which created OSHA) in 1970. Before then, workers had to rely on the Safety Appliance Act (1893) which only required safety equipment to be on hand in railroad construction. Still, before OSHA, 14,000 workers died every year due to preventable mistakes.

Today, the crisis is slightly different. While there are strict rules and regulation governing health and safety, there are fewer protections in place for mental health. Mental health costs companies $225 billion every year in lost productivity. As for traditional injuries, these cost American businesses upwards of $1 billion every single week.

The money lost here is due to several factors, from:

  1. Lost productivity
  2. Employee downtime
  3. Damage to your reputation and a subsequent loss in sales
  4. Employee compensation costs

The large chunk of those costs is due to successful compensation claims. What this means is that employers are still not doing their part to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers, and look instead for shortcuts to reduce cost. When the alternative is being sued for thousands of dollars, the choice should be simple. You need a professional on hand to help mitigate this risk and save you money as a result.  

Health and safety is not just a buzzword; it is a vast, money-losing machine. That is why you need to either hire health and safety specialists or sponsor an employee (or several) to attend the SeminarFest from ASSP to learn and develop skills that can improve the state of your workplace and introduce risk-mitigating strategies that keep everyone safer and happier.

You cannot ignore the human element in your business. Still today far too many companies get away with a minimal commitment to an employees health and their personal rights. Doing the bare minimum might be cheaper, but it is not how you gain the best and most loyal employees.

You need to support them both physically and mentally. Hiring a health and safety specialist or encouraging your current employees to gain new certifications can help. They can ensure that the environment is secure and that the risks involved are nominal. They cannot, however, do it alone. You need to step up and work on providing a space that employees feel good about working in.

You can do this by installing an adequately fitted break room and finding ways to encourage, if not reward, healthy eating. Partner with a local gym and offer your employees the subscriptions for a reduced rate. Be understanding with their at-home schedules, and allow them to make up time later or take unpaid days off if they need to.

If mental health and injuries cost businesses in productivity, investing in their wellness and safety will improve your profit margins. Yes, like every investment there will be upfront costs, but when it comes to improving your performance the next quarter, this can be the best strategy.

Modern living has so many conveniences, and yet our workers are more stressed out than ever. Nearly ¾ of Americans report to being moderately or severely stressed at their jobs. This issue isn’t just American, either. 85% of Chinese workers are stressed on a daily basis. People are experiencing panic attacks, increased illness, and in the most extreme cases, death due to cardiac arrest or other hypertension issues.

We need to move past this lifestyle of work hard, play later. We are living longer than ever, and with the number of tools and inventions created every year, our workloads should be getting easier, not harder. By working together, we can improve the quality of life for everyone involved, but first, we need to take care of those in our charge.

Author: Carol Trehearn

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