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Debunking Common Workplace Safety Misconceptions

While businesses are becoming increasingly aware of best health and safety practice in the workplace, there still exists a number of misconceptions that prevent businesses from operating safely.

We take a look at several of these common misconceptions and provide advice on overcoming them in your workplace.

1. It is impossible to create a hazard-free workplace

Research has shown that over 99% of all workplace accidents are avoidable. The key to identifying and mitigating risk is carrying out thorough risk assessments and putting the correct procedures in place.

If managers and their employees follow a mentality that accidents are unavoidable, it is much less likely that safe work procedures will be followed. This is why it is important to stress the idea of everyone working together to create a hazard free workplace. This can be achieved in part by creating a safety conscious work culture.

Human error might mean that there are still times where mistakes are made, but this does not make prevention any less important. In fact, if an accident does occur and the business can prove that there were procedures in place which were being reinforced, the business may be found not to be at fault or the fine will be significantly lower.

2. Complying with health and safety law is too expensive

While there is often an immediate upfront cost to implementing health and safety systems, a cost/benefit analysis will likely prove that the cost of an accident far outweighs the costs of implementation.

Some direct and indirect costs of an unsafe work place include;

  • Poor attendance
  • Low performance
  • Work related sickness/injuries
  • High staff turnover
  • Investigating an accident
  • Compensation
  • Fines
  • Loss of business reputation (in some cases the impact on a business’ reputation may be the biggest impact)
  • Loss of contracts/clients
  • Damage to property due to accidents

In the UK, changes to the sentencing guidelines also means that large fines can be given for the presence of risk, even if an accident has not occurred. For example, G&S Roofing Ltd were recently fined £80,000 + £4,574 in costs, for safety failings related to working at height, despite being sent a written warning.

3. My employees can choose whether or not to use PPE provided by the business

Health and Safety legislation around the world makes it absolutely clear that it is the businesses responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees.

While most businesses are aware that they are required to complete risk assessments and take all reasonable steps to eliminate and reduce risk, many are less sure on their responsibility when it comes to reinforcement.

However, it is the businesses responsibility to ensure all policies are reinforced and managed; including the use of personal protective equipment.

If an employee suffers an accident because they have failed to use PPE, the business is likely to be liable. Some of the steps the business should take include;

  • Integrate PPE into policies and procedures
  • Ensure all staff understand their requirements and are properly trained to use PPE
  • Ensure any equipment rolled out is in working order at all times
  • Carry out inspections to ensure PPE is being used
  • Talk to employees to find out if there are reasons for not using PPE and take steps to rectify
  • Take action on any employees who continually fail to use the equipment provided

Find out more on where health and safety responsibility lies.

4. We have an excellent safety record – an accident won’t happen to us

Many workplace fatalities and major injuries are first time offences. Before the incident occurred, it is likely that the business also had an excellent safety record.

A long-standing safety record could simply be good luck or the systems that have been in place could have been working. Yet this does not mean that they will always work.

With workplaces constantly evolving, new hazards and risks are continually created. New employees come into the business, new roles are created, environments change and new equipment is introduced.

This is why regular risk assessments are extremely important. Risk assessments should be scheduled on a regular basis along with reviews of current procedures, to ensure that they are still relevant and effective.

It is also important to roll out appropriate training to new employees and carry out inspections and servicing on any equipment, tools and vehicles.

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