As spending cuts start to take effect and the pressure is on to save money, there is a danger that businesses will start to take risks as they begin to cut corners in areas such as health, safety and first aid. Whilst there is no doubt that cost cutting is essential for the survival of many businesses in the UK, we’d urge that health and safety is one area that shouldn’t be compromised.
There are thousands of accidents and deaths in UK workplaces every year already, costing businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds in law suits, damages and lost time. According to the HSE, 171 people died at work last year and 233,000 were injured. Businesses need to acknowledge that there are some serious risks involved if they don’t invest in the necessary health and safety resources, whether that is spending time to carry out thorough risk assessments or ensuring they have enough first aiders in the workplace.
For example, employers should carry out a risk assessment of the first aid needs of their workplace, to determine if one or more first aiders are required. Guidance states that if a first aider is not necessary, there must still be an ‘appointed person’ to take care of first aid arrangements, whose role is to look after equipment and facilities, and to call an ambulance in an emergency. However, accidents can happen at any time, so providing qualified first aiders is something St John Ambulance urge all businesses to consider. If a risk assessment shows that a first aider is needed, training should be with a HSE-approved course and a first aider should always be onsite.
Less time and money invested into inspections, or provision of correct equipment, could not only cost your business more money but could subsequently lead to a rise in injuries or possible deaths in workplaces across the UK.
In the past, a leading supermarket was named by an inquest jury, who found a forklift truck driver had been unlawfully killed in an accident at work. A safety switch on his forklift had been disconnected and it went out of control and crushed him, costing the company £425,000 with commensurate damage to their reputation as a result. A St Helens napkin and table cloth manufacturer was also fined after a worker lost three fingers when her hand was crushed between two printer rollers. The company was ordered to pay £30,000 in fines as a result of the accident.
Cutting corners happens. Whether it’s failing to provide simple measures such as safety helmets and safety gloves, or not carrying out the necessary risk assessments to be health and safety compliant and most importantly, provide a safe working environment.
It is helpful to remember that health and safety regulation has been developed in the UK to protect the millions of citizens who currently live and work in this country, and not to restrict their employers. A number of high profile and costly law suits against companies who have cut corners illustrate the importance of good health and safety practice. Trying to cut back is counter productive, you might not only be costing the business a fortune, but could also be costing someone their life.
Richard Evens, Commercial Training Director, St John Ambulance
Richard is Commercial Marketing Director at St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid organisation and market leader in workplace first aid training. Responsible for training programmes and educational standards, Richard has been involved in consultation with the HSE since the early development of new guidance for the content and structure of workplace first aid training. He has liaised widely with the HSE and other stakeholders to apply the collective expertise in first aid to the new guidance, becoming a board member of the First Aid at Work Council which was created during this process.
Before joining the charity sector 10 years ago in a retail development role for Oxfam, Richard worked in marketing and logistical roles with Shell and Total Oil. He lives in north west London spending time with his family, trying to keep up with two energetic young children.