Why The Management Should Give Importance and Focus On Accidents In The Workplace?

The pain, suffering and sometimes grief that work-related injuries and ill health can lead to, the disruption to family life, the financial and other pressures that can ensue, underline the moral case for organisations and individuals who work in them to prevent accidents throughout their daily activities.

Conditions minimising the potential for accidents need to be maintained, and – in planning for the worst – steps must be taken to mitigate the consequences when accidents do occur by providing aid and support.

The moral case for accident prevention is obvious, but the case for management action to minimise their occurrence and effects is not difficult to make either. There is the simple utilitarian case that organisations perform better, protect their reputations and reduce their costs through the application of sound risk management principles, factors which now increasingly influence the related areas of corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. 

Increasingly organisations’ own health as businesses or public bodies is being judged by standards that include the care taken of their employees’ and the public’s safety and welfare. There is the wider economic case too, which applies to the economy as a whole.

A Health and Safety Executive report (HSE, 2004) assessed the costs to British economy in 2001/2002 as being between £20 and £31.8 billion. That was between 1.9 and 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for 2002, or around half of annual growth in GDP in the last decade. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated the global costs of workplace accidents to be at least $1,250 billion.

Legal compliance is one of the strongest drivers for accident prevention. Statutes and regulations  increasingly emanating from the EU – together with the common law comprise a set of norms which are non delegable and non-negotiable. These norms exist both as minimum standards which society expects all organisations to adhere to, and as a framework for penalising non-compliance or compensating victims.

Legal requirements may sometimes lag behind public expectations of safety standards and good industry practice, but in many instances they can also set standards which are more demanding than managers might consider to be “reasonable” or justifiable based on their experience and their perceptions of low risks. Risk management concepts such as tolerability of risk and ALARP (ensuring risks are as low as is reasonable practicable) are flexible, and have their roots in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

Health and safety legislation is closely intertwined with best practice in risk assessment, emergency planning, fire protection, first aid and employers’ liability insurance. The legal consequences which can follow for non compliance – criminal proceedings and claims for damages – are described in their various stages leading ultimately to the courtroom.

In addition to these important areas on aspects of accidents which are much less regulated, but which may have come to the fore as management tools, in particular the thorough investigation of accidents to learn lessons, and optional rehabilitation approach to enable employees to return to work.

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