In terms of an insurance against potential litigation against the organisation and directly against senior managers, hefty fines, bad press, loss of business, increased insurance premiums, the welfare of its employees and anyone else affected by the activities or omissions of the organisation, this is arguably the most essential area of management to be thoroughly underpinned. However, a sizeable proportion of organisations have little idea of their legal responsibilities in this matter. Most will have a put considerable effort into a product catalogue or a website, but how many have a legal register - a thorough list of all their legal repsonsibilities how it affects them and what they are doing to ensure the issues never occur? Senior managers - please do not stick your head in the sand on this one - it is far too important to ignore or give a half-hearted attempt to address it.
It's the Law!
Plainly and simply, employers have a legal duty to keep your workforce (and anyone else that visits your site) from harm and when it comes to health and safety, ignorance of the law is no defence. If you are a company owner /CEO and have a serious accident on site, you will be visited by an enforcement agency who will want to know every detail of your health and safety management system. If your health and safety management system is not one that follows Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, you will need to demonstrate that your practices are as good or better. You will need to show that the accident was unforeseeable and that you have done everything that is reasonably practicable to have prevented the accident.
The consequences of failure may be severe, depending on the nature of the accident. If the accident resulted in a fatality, under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, a director found criminally negligent could face personal prosecution alongside prosecution of the organisation. In section 40 of the same act, the onus of proof is on the employer to demonstrate that there was no better way of discharging his duty under the Act. Fines regularly reach five or six figures for serious infringements of health and safety law. This may be accompanied by a jail sentence of up to 2 years.
Hoping the day will never come is no defence against the law.
2. Money is Saved
Contrary to the negative approach of regarding health and safety management as an excessive cost, it acts as a good insurance policy for organisations to prevent much greater losses. Here are some examples of unnecessary outlay that may be saved by good health and safety management:
Skimping on safeguarding an organisation's workforce is a false economy.
3. It is the Right Thing to Do
Last but not
least, organisations have a moral obligation to ensure that their employees are safe and that their well-being is looked after. This argument is firmly grounded in the accident and work-related
disease statistics. Figures from the HSE show a steady reduction in fatal work-related injuries (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatals.htm) and non-fatal injuries (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/index.htm)
between 2003 and 2011. This reflects a growing refusal by government and
employers to accept unsafe working conditions. In order to continue the
downward trend, the government will continue to extend and tighten legislation,
along with its enforcement.
Society’s expectations continue to rise: people expect to have a better standard of life and improved safety is paramount.
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