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News: Why safety works

Workplace safety is improving but there are still too many injuries and this is costing British business dear - on all counts, says Bob Towse, head of technical & safety at the HVCA.
First the good news: according to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Commission, workplace accidents fell by 8% during 2004/5 compared with the previous year. Now the bad:

In the UK last year 220 workers were killed; 30,213 suffered major injuries; and another 120,346 were off work for more than three days as the result of workplace accidents.

The human cost is bad enough but this also means that British companies lost 35 million working days costing literally billions of pounds.

Many small businesses think the cost of putting proper health and safety measures in place is too high for them to bear but these statistics show the opposite is the case. They must spend the right amount on this aspect of their working practices.

Often the problem is access to useful information and best practice guidance to help firms with limited resources put the right measures in place. Fortunately, trade associations like the HVCA have people dedicated to this kind of work and our efforts are now augmented by an internet service established by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. It has launched a new website, in partnership with a network of Euro Info Centres, to provide businesses with good practice information on occupational safety and health.

The website - http://osha.eu.int/business - includes information on health and safety legislation and has a special section for SMEs - http://sme.osha.eu.int/ - to guide them to sources of advisory services and good practice, which will hopefully ease the compliance process.

However, this is not just about complying with legislation. It is also about good business sense as Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, explains: 'If you run a company, especially a small one, you may be misled into thinking that securing safety and health is difficult and costly. In fact it is the other way round as the business cases we have looked into demonstrate that higher safety and health standards lead to higher productivity. This is the message we would like to send to companies across Europe.'

The new website offers a collection of good practice examples which firms can adopt, and it directs users towards specialist consultants in their region. The role of Corporate Social Responsibility is explained and some recent studies into the impact on productivity are also there.

In short, this is a useful and timely resource which contractors can use in conjunction with more specialised local advice from their trade associations.
1 January 2006

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