• Rebekah.Orr

Health and Safety and the Bottom Line

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

Health and safety isn't something most of us immediately link with productivity or profitability. Half the time we think of it as contrary to it - costs a lot to implement for no benefit, and sucks up a bunch of time on workshops and seminars that a lot of people don't pay much attention to.

But with moving equipment being charged with around 70% of workplace accidents (as said by WorkSafe's rep at last weekend's RTA conference), it might be time to ask about the economic ramifications of accidents in the workplace. Beyond the ACC levies, what do they really cost us?

Thanks in part to the small population sample, there isn't much out there around this in little old NZ. However, this European study https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=7417&langId=en has some interesting things to say regarding INVESTING in health and safety. It's fifty-odd pages long, so a fairly substantial read with lots of numbers and tables that may or may not make your eyes glaze over or induce a nap, BUT, the greatest hits are in the conclusion: 'In general, case studies support the fact that investing in occupational safety and health is profitable.'

Many of our major industries are currently suffering economically however - for example, taken nationwide, civil construction is in a slump. And what happens then? We all know what happens. Restructures, cutbacks, job losses.

Our Europeans have helpful things to say about this, too: ' In times of crisis, restructuring and reorganisation, management is especially focussed on cost-cutting in order to maximise profits in a competitive market. This strategy often leads to cutting the expenditures for health and safety, instead of focussing at cutting avoidable costs (such as the costs of accidents at work and work related ill-health) that offer no added value.... investing in health and safety creates benefits - equal to the reduction of the avoidable costs - that ADD VALUE to the firm.' (emphasis added).

But wait, there's more! 'Moreover, investing in health and safety will also increase the productivity and the performance of the staff and the equipment, thus creating a double added value to the firms' profit.'

For many, investing in much of anything in a time of economic scarcity seems counter-intuitive; but maybe our learned European counterparts are on to something? What if, instead of seeing health and safety as extra to the basic running costs of a company, we begin to see it as vital? What if this investment really did increase productivity, and performance? Then, companies might stay afloat when they otherwise wouldn't by eliminating the true inefficiencies of day to day running, like paying staff that aren't there because they got hurt, on top of paying a temp to do that staff member's job, to say nothing of the possible fees and fines from having a member of staff hurt on site. More people would keep their jobs, and then they'd keep spending, and that helps the big money-go-round we call the economy to keep on spinning.

So it looks like it could be a case of: invest in health and safety - the bottom line you save may be your own!

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