8 handy tips to reduce the cost of working days lost

The cost of working days lost as a result of work-related injury and ill heath is rising. Statistics from the HSE show that in 2014/15 the cost amounted to £14.1 billion, increasing to £14.9 billion in 2015/16.

We’ve previously looked at the two biggest causes of working days lost, work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders, along with lung disease in our previous ‘Shine a light on’ series – in support of the HSE’s ‘Go Home Healthy’ campaign. But it doesn’t end there. Workplace injuries amounted to 5.5 million working days lost in the last reported year (2016/17) with slips, trips or falls the cause of 29% of those and lifting/handling coming in at a close second with 22%.

Out of the costs incurred, employers footed the bill for £2.9 billion, government £3.4 billion with individuals bearing the main brunt of £8.6 billion. As pointed out by John Barnes in his sentencing guidelines blog, the fines incurred by companies for safety breaches is on the rise, which points toward the likelihood that the employers’ figure will rise in coming years.

So, what can be done to reduce working days lost and, in turn, the cost to all parties?

We’ve put together some handy tips on how you can reduce the cost in your business – looking at a mix of traditional and non-traditional good practice to implement:

1. Risk Assessments

Risk Assessments are a legal requirement. Furthermore, a Risk Assessment is integral in controlling risk in your workplace, and by thinking about what might cause harm – and considering whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm – you are protecting your employees. As highlighted in The importance of Risk Assessments a good Risk Assessment will help to prevent accidents and ill health.

2. Training

Essentially, company Health & Safety policies, risk assessments and safe systems of work are ineffective without training. (Otherwise how do people know how to follow and implement them?) All colleagues should receive Health & Safety awareness training equivalent to Level 1 as part of their induction, with following training completed commensurate to their role. This will be different for each job role and must be defined as part of your Health & Safety policy.

3. Due diligence

Health & Safety law states that it is the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all colleagues whilst at work, so far as is reasonably practicable (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974). In the event that something does go wrong, due diligence is key in proving the ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ part. More than that, effective systems for managing due diligence means you will spot any non-conformances as part of your routine checks which could therefore prevent accidents and injuries.

4. Wellbeing

As defined by the British Heart Foundation ‘Mental wellbeing is a state in which we are able to realise our own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life and work productively and fruitfully’. With the amount of people suffering from stress, depression and anxiety increasing – and therefore not being in a state of mental wellbeing – the wellbeing of your staff should be a business priority. Along with consideration of the six areas of work design, implementing a stress risk assessment and following the HSE’s management standards – as outlined in Shine a light on: work-related stress – there is a plethora of initiatives to implement in the workplace to support the wellbeing of your employees. Snacknation have come up with 121 (some plausible, some less so) here. NICE also has comprehensive guidance on how to create the right conditions to support mental wellbeing at work.

5. Company culture

None of the above steps will be effective without the right culture in the business. ‘Buy-in’ from all stakeholders is needed in order to fully embed a safety culture. (Look out for a blog on this from our Strategic Advisor Sterling Crew, coming soon!). The right kind of culture is also needed to support employees’ suffering from mental health problems, in support of No.4. It is thought that 95% of employees who call in sick with stress give a different reason, which shows that the subject remains hard to talk about in the workplace. By introducing a comfortable culture, free from stigmatism, your employees may be able to talk about their problems, addressing them early-on and preventing long-term sickness. Resources on how to handle mental health in the workplace from time to change can be found here.

6. Consider your employees’ sleep patterns

The wellbeing of your employees goes beyond the parameters of your working space. SHP Online recently reported that sleep is the biggest factor in a person’s wellbeing and can also affect how safe they are on the job. Have you considered your employees’ work-life balance? Or their shift patterns and amounts of overtime?

7. Health & Safety champions

It should not just be the role of the Responsible Person to implement good Health & Safety practices, as discussed in No.5. Staff at all levels should be involved in the H&S of their organisation and delegating some responsibility to key members in the form of Health & Safety champions can support this. Often these individuals are non-safety professionals who have a vested interested in safety in the workplace and can effectively communicate with their peers encouraging involvement from all team members.

8. Duvet days

Perhaps a controversial suggestion, is the introduction of duvet days. Breathe HR sum up a duvet day as ‘one of a number of days that an employee can take off without notice in advance.’ An employee is not required to give a reason for wanting the day off, and the idea is that by allowing this the number of sick days can be reduced. Whereas an employee might previously have ‘pulled a sickie’ to have the day off – and then added an extra day on to make the illness seem more believable – a duvet day can be taken ‘no questions asked’. The initiative can also encourage a culture of honesty and they can even enhance productivity as staff feel they are treated with respect.

Whilst none of the above tips are ‘quick wins’, collectively they will help your business in having the right approach to managing safety. Health & Safety should be seen as part of the everyday running a business, not just an afterthought or add-on, but fully integrated throughout all departments, at all levels.

As a final thought, by creating and sustaining an environment where everyone enjoys their job, and feels safe and happy, you are likely to reduce working days lost – as they will come to work even on those mornings they might not feel like it!

The largest team of Environmental Health Practitioners in the country are on-hand to support you in making safety simple in your business. Call 0203 740 3744 or email sales@shieldsafety.co.uk to find out more today.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email hello@shieldsafety.co.uk.

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