Health and Safety
What Are the Benefits of Good Occupational Health and Safety Practices?
A well designed and executed occupational health and safety (OHS) program is often said to be good for business as well as being a key legal and social obligation (making sure that employees in any size or type of business go home in the same condition that they came to work). Furthermore, so-called “best-practice” organizations not only recognize the basic value of good OHS, but see that extra efforts to ensure that its people are not harmed or made ill in any way at work (even at a minor level) is also an essential part of a truly excellent enterprise.
These best practice organizations therefore believe that occupational health and safety:
- helps demonstrate to all stakeholders that a business is socially responsible,
- protects and enhances an organization’s reputation and credibility,
- helps maximize the performance and/or productivity of employees,
- enhances employees’ commitment to the team/organization as a whole,
- builds a more competent, happier and healthier workforce,
- reduces business costs and disruption,
- enables organizations to meet customers’ OHS expectations, and
- encourages the workforce in general to stay longer in active life.
Many organizations, and especially the larger ones, are expected by law in many countries, to demonstrate ever-higher standards of corporate governance around Risk and Safety and greater transparency in reporting practices. The combination of operating in a market driven economy, alongside a society that is more aware of risks, means that many enterprises now therfore realize the significant gains that can be made from integrating well-designed OHS performance into their wider business model and strategies. These wider benefits include:
- improvements in the image, brand value and wider reputation of the enterprise,
- delivering on corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments,
- maintaining and promoting investor confidence, and
- developing positive stakeholder engagement at all levels.
Of course, these so-called “best-practice” firms are often large in scale and can afford to have professional Occ. Health and safety staff to guide their efforts. So is it really possible and necessary for the majority of organizations, and especially much smaller ones, to pursue OHS excellence? For many experts the answer is “yes” and even without professional OHS staff it is possible to raise management awareness to start to start to develop the particular strategy and make the changes.
Simple improvements to workplace safety practices can quickly increase competitiveness, profitability and the motivation of employees. In addition, the implementation of a new OHS management system can rapidly provide an effective framework to prevent or minimize accidents and workplace related ill-health and thereby show an immediate return on investment.
In order to commence this journey towards evolving or improving OHS strategies and practices, it is important for the board or the senior management team of an organization to recognize that both corporate performance and value to stakeholders are affected by its occupational health and safety performance. An effective approach therefore requires both this senior team and all employees to demonstrate a positive attitude and active commitment to health and safety issues. Of greatest relevance at the earliest stages of this journey are:
- including OHS as a key issue in wider corporate governance initiatives,
- ensuring OHS risks are properly identified (in a systematic manner) and adequately addressed by all parties affected (leaders, employees, contractors and suppliers etc.), and
- actively motivating all teams across the organizations to take OHS matter seriously and keep applying peer pressure by rewarding good results.