Turning obstacles into opportunities

When one door closes, another opens – or so says the old proverb. Finding a way to turn obstacles into opportunities when it comes to health and safety at work is vital in difficult economic times.

Scottish businesses will find help is at hand, however, at RoSPA’s Scotland Safety and Health Forum, entitled Finding opportunity amidst cuts and changes. Firms will have a chance to explore current and future safety and health issues, not just by sitting and listening, but by getting involved.

In difficult economic times you may need some help to make the business case for health and safety to your directors. This event, held at the Hilton Glasgow on September 21, will help you to do just that.

Although, thankfully, in the UK notifiable fatal and serious injuries in the workplace are reducing, there are still more than one million injuries to workers annually and more than two million cases of ill health caused or exacerbated by work. Many thousands are still dying prematurely as a result of conditions such as occupational cancer. The annual cost to the economy is in the region of £30billion.

Despite this scale of tragedy and loss, companies that are hard pressed, especially during tough economic conditions, may ask quite understandably why they should devote precious money – and even more precious time – to upgrading their health and safety management regimes.

Here’s one very good reason to keep on top of health and safety: the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that the ratio between insured and uninsured costs arising from accidents lies in the range of 1:8 to 1:36. That means that in the worst case, for every £100 recovered from the insurer, the business loses about £3,600 – yet very few businesses investigate accidents and incidents, to see what lessons can be learned.

And an accident in which the insurance covers, say, £3,000 could end up costing more than £100,000.

In the case of a very severe accident, such as a fire or loss of a key worker in a small firm, such an event could spell the end of the business altogether.

But perhaps the most important reason to maintain good standards of health and safety is the human factor. Accidents are expensive in financial terms, but the cost to families, friends and communities is incalculable. Grief, stress and the financial hardship that often follow an accident can tear families apart.

No business wants its people to be injured or wishes to be prosecuted or served with enforcement notices by inspectors. With an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility, every conscientious business owner or senior manager wants to know that they have done everything they reasonably can to ensure safe and healthy working. No one wants an accident or work-related health issue on their watch.

Built around interactive sessions such as workshops, discussion groups, and panel interviews, the Scotland Safety and Health Forum will provide opportunities to share and receive advice. Case studies, top tips and practical advice will be given by prominent health and safety professionals from the region, covering key topics such as: the real cost of accidents, communicating the safety business case to senior managers, and important changes to Scotland’s safety landscape. Good safety leadership and teamwork are also vital for excellent health and safety cultures.

We’ve made fantastic progress in the past few years, with serious accidents falling throughout the UK. But we can’t become complacent; and some sectors are beginning to fall behind – notably the agricultural and construction industries. People should be able to come home from work safe and sound, no matter what they do for a living – and there is plenty of help for those who want to make sure they do so.

Sign up now for our Scottish safety forum – if you do so before August 10, you’ll receive a 20 per cent discount.

What price the safety and good health of Scottish workers?

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser

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