Creating and constantly maintaining a safe workplace is a quiet cost of doing business in the United Kingdom.
At least business owners hope it remains that way: quiet.
The alternative – an accident that results in injuries to workers, visitors or possibly even customers – can trigger a reaction that brings a business, and its owner, to their knees.
Expenses pile up quickly when owners have to pay for medical expenses to treat injuries, the inevitable increase in workers’ compensation premiums -- and sometimes attorneys and settlements, if there are liability issues.
There also can be time and money spent dealing with side issues like loss of productivity while the injured worker heals, morale issues among workers concerned for their safety and damage to the company’s reputation from the negative publicity that surrounds a workplace accident.
It is a pot full of problems that few people want to talk about, but one that every owner takes seriously, especially when considering the financial impact it could have on the business.
That is why Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), made safety performance in the workplace one of her primary objectives when she took office in 2007. Great Britain already had a glowing record for work safety among European nations, but the glow wasn’t bright enough for Hackitt.
She issued a challenge to business owners, employees and government agencies to team up in an effort to make the UK’s work environment the envy of not just Europe, but the rest of the industrialised world. It appears her message got through.
As the chart below demonstrates, owners, employees and government agencies are managing the issue of health and safety performance very well in the United Kingdom over the five-year period from 2007 to 2012. There has been a significant improvement in all the key areas of safety.
Workdays lost to injury
Cost to economy
As impressive as those numbers are, there is always room for improvement when it comes to workplace safety, and the HSE is pushing forward. The agency wants the government to be responsible for inspection, investigation and enforcement of health and safety rules, but expects employers and employees to play a part as well.
Among the recommendations to improve safety in the workplace are:
Accidents still happen, and every business owner must consider how he or she will handle the situation if an accident victim decides to sue and wins a judgment against the company.
More than £7 billion was awarded to accident victims in 2011-2012. The costs include obvious things like the loss of income, health and rehabilitation, and the subjective monetary value given for pain, grief and suffering.
Awards could be substantial and are likely to result in a structured settlement or annuity. The annuity normally is set up to make monthly payments at a fixed rate to the victim, but there could be some conditions that business owners should take into account.
Annual increases for inflation and medical care costs, which often rise faster than inflation, may be part of the annuity terms. Another condition to consider is whether the annuity is for life, which can be a factor if the victim is young.
The secret to quietly running a safe business is to not accept injuries as part of running a business. Most injuries are preventable, if the right policies and conditions are put into place. Let your product be what makes people talk about your company, not anything else.
Bill Fay is a writer for Annuity.org. He has 30 years of experience working in newspapers, radio and television, mostly dealing with college and professional sports.
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