Debunking the myths about occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety is a critical issue for small businesses, although they may not realize it, and ISO 45001 is a great way for them to tackle OH&S, although they may not recognize this either. This blog post explains why.
Health and safety is a critical issue for small and medium sized organizations, partly because it’s a big issue full stop. According to the International Labour Organization, around 2.3 million people die from work-related accidents or diseases every year. This works out at over 6,000 deaths a day.
Closer to home, the HSE recorded that 111 people were killed at their job in the UK in the year to March 2020 – not including COVID-19 deaths. The most hazardous industries, in order, were construction (40 deaths), agriculture, forestry and fishing (20) and manufacturing (15). That still leaves six deaths each in “admin and support services”, and in a category called “wholesale, retail, motor repair, accommodation and food”. Incidentally, the UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU.
A small proportion But of course deaths only account for a small proportion of lost time incidents. In the year to March 2019, 1.4 million work-related cases of ill health were reported in the UK along with 69,208 non-fatal injuries. Six hundred thousand work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases were reported. According to the HSE, 28.2 million work days were lost in the year due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. The cost, excluding long latency illnesses such as cancer, was worked out as being £15 billion. The point is that the toll in terms of cost and human misery is a very high one – for what are, after all, largely avoidable circumstances.
Moreover – and very much to the point – small and medium sized organizations suffer the cost of workplace injuries and ill health to a disproportionate extent. For a small business, absence from work can result in the financial burden of paying out statutory sick pay and potentially additional overtime to other workers; the potential loss of key skills that impact business continuity, reputation and/or the quality of product or service delivery. There’s the danger that with limited resources, or the loss of a key individual, a business might have to cease activity altogether. Even in cases where there’s no actual absence, but just poor health while people are still at work, it leads to lower productivity and probably a higher turnover of people, which again has a disproportionate impact on SMEs. Occupational health and safety is therefore a key issue for SMEs, and not just in terms of compliance.
Raising the level of OH&S performance The good news for SMEs, however, is that raising the level of their health and safety performance doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. This is partly because of BS ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems. Requirements with guidance for use. This international health and safety management system standard was very consciously written with organizations of every size in mind. For that reason it emphasizes that users should always implement a management system that is in proportion to their size. It also provides a lot of flexibility so that organizations get a management system the fits them precisely. As such ISO 45001 does not require organizations to expend a lot of time, money or resources to adequately meet its requirements.
In addition, however, SMEs can now also benefit from ISO 45001 Occupational health & safety management systems - A practical guide for small organizations. This new guide to implementing ISO 45001 sets out to encourage small organizations to design an OH&S management system that’s right for them. It aims to drive real improvements in OH&S performance, rather than just tick boxes and accumulate paperwork. The guide is written in plain language, gives clause by clause guidance to ISO 45001 and explains the intention of each clause and why it’s important. It also gives practical examples of how each requirement can be met. The results will protect workers and improve their health and safety – resulting in less lost time, less staff turnover and more stability, allowing organizations to get on with their core purpose, which as we have seen is particularly important for SMEs.