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Poor health and safety costing the economy, says HSE

17 December 2008

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Poor health and safety practices could be placing extra strain on the economy during these harsh financial times, according to recent statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

During the period 2007/08, 229 workers were killed at work and 299,000 sustained reportable injuries. The HSE also report that an astonishing 34 million working days were lost through injury and ill health, which equates to 1.4 days per worker.

Estimates suggest that figures like these lead to an outlay of up to £6.5bn for UK employers every year.

The HSE says that, along with the expense to individual companies, lax health and safety policies can potentially impact upon the wider economy, constituting an unnecessary additional strain.

NHS treatment of work-related injuries and government payouts for sickness and bereavement benefits cost millions of pounds a year – costs, the HSE claims, that could be significantly reduced by responsible training regimes and a greater commitment by businesses to the wellbeing of their workforce.

Recognising this, the government will introduce tough new laws in January that will see maximum fines for health and safety breaches quadrupled and custodial sentences introduced as an option for a much broader spectrum of transgressions.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act has gained Royal ascent in record time and is set to come into effect on 16 January 2009.

Anne McColl, General Manager for British Red Cross First Aid Training, said: “Ensuring that your employees learn first aid is much more than just complying with your health and safety obligations. Encouraging people to learn life-saving skills shows your commitment to the employee and also to the well being of the team. The confidence and motivation that it can give to individuals is invaluable both in and out of the working environment.”

The Red Cross, who have been providing first aid training for the workplace for more than 27 years, believe most organisations do endeavour to comply with legislation but also feel that the amount of information can be daunting and lead to unintentional omissions in training.