Every workplace setting presents its own unique health and safety risks. From heavy lifting to office fire hazards, employees are subjected to a range of potential threats throughout the working day. Yet too many business owners are failing to put in place the necessary safety measures that will allow their staff to operate effectively and without disruptions.
Equipping employees with the expertise and training to carry out their roles safely should be a fundamental requirement for all businesses. It’s not just about doing the right thing – it’s the law. Since the introduction of various health and safety Acts, notably the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) 1974 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, businesses have been legally obliged to accept their greater duty of care.
In particular, these Acts require workplaces to provide adequate training of staff to ensure that health and safety procedures are understood and adhered to, as well as adequate welfare provisions for staff at work. Overall, employers are expected to ensure a safe working environment that is properly maintained, where operations are conducted safely and with suitable provision of relevant information, instruction and supervision.
While many have disputed the ambiguity surrounding the qualifying phrase ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ (see References, note 1), this legislation has succeeded in shifting societal attitudes by demonstrating a business’s responsibility to properly safeguard its workforce. In many areas some form of training is legally required. All staff, for example, regardless of the environment in which they work, must have fire awareness training. Similarly, those using display screen equipment (DSE) must be given training to help them avoid RSI, headaches, eyestrain and back problems, all of which contribute to absenteeism.
THE COST OF NEGLIGENCE
Businesses that do not put the proper safety measures in place run a number of risks, ranging from work-related injuries and falls in productivity to costly lawsuits and compensation and loss of reputation.
Take the retail sector, which employs three million employees in the UK. These workers need to have the appropriate health and safety knowledge to lift and move stock correctly (2). This sounds like a straightforward task, but if performed incorrectly can easily result in the employee injuring themselves or others. Meanwhile, the construction industry is responsible for some of the highest worker fatalities each year; in 2018/19, 30 workers were killed on construction sites (3). It’s essential that workers know how to keep themselves, their colleagues and the public safe – it can be a matter of life and death.
Health and safety negligence has a direct and negative impact on the performance of a business. Statistics from the HSE show that 30.7 million working days are lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury each year (4). That can lead to significantly increased costs, due to hiring temporary replacements, for example. Failing to safeguard employees can also result in significant damage to the organisation’s reputation; businesses seen to be careless of their staff’s safety and welfare risk being lambasted by the media, leading to negative public opinion and consequently reduced profits and revenue (5). Once this spiral has begun, it can be hard to reverse.
So how can businesses equip their staff with the knowledge they need in an efficient, timely and cost-effective manner? The answer is simple – eLearning. From manual handling to fire safety courses, investing in carefully designed, interactive online training provides an engaging way for staff to complete required health and safety training, while allowing businesses to work towards compliance with legislation.
Incorrect manual handling is the cause of more than a third of all workplace injuries that are reported to authorities each year. Training in lifting and handling can take as little as 35 minutes, but the results can be hugely beneficial in the long term. When it comes to fire safety and prevention, a business that does not act responsibly is risking lives and its own future – a staggering 60 per cent of private businesses never recover from a fire (6). Educating staff about the risks of fire and how to keep the workplace safe is a legal duty as well as good business sense.
These are just two examples. A wide variety of online learning courses is available, covering everything from food safety and hygiene to asbestos awareness, working at height, handling hazardous substances and prevention of slips, trips and falls.
The main asset of any organisation is its people. Without a healthy and productive workforce, no business can expect to enjoy long-term success. Training staff to manage, avoid and prevent the risks and hazards of the workplace helps to keep them safe, meets legal requirements, and allows the business to operate smoothly and achieve its goals.