Why health and safety is a hot topic for UK businesses right now
6 min read
26 June 2015
James Jameson, VP product strategy at Rivo, explores why environmental, health and safety is now considered essential by investors – who actively examine the performance of businesses in this space, before making their investment decisions.
Health and safety is about people; keeping your employees, contractors and customers safe day-to-day. Businesses can see a significant return on investment when doing it properly, and can really damage their bottom line when they get it wrong. In terms of reputation, it is essential for any brand to get environmental, health and safety management right. Getting it wrong is not just a case of lost time and costs, but can have a far-reaching impact on your brand image.
It has finally come of age – some 180 years since the first factory inspectorate was formed in the UK and 40 years since the game-changing Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in the UK. Basic non-compliance such as not reporting incidents is simply not accepted by regulators, or indeed by consumers. In the advent of open internet communications, they have become tertiary stakeholders in major corporations through the power of reputation.
The better companies get at compliance, the easier they will find it to go beyond and achieve excellence and from there, innovation. Getting the basics right is fundamental in every facet of business and EHS is no different. Ensure you have a robust approach to your EHS and people will give you compliance, but tackling it in an advanced way using the latest learnings, theories and tools out there, will give your business rewards inside and out.
The more compliant businesses are today, the more successful they will be in the future. If you don’t have a safety record to protect your business it will really affect your industry reputation and chances of winning new business. Take the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill for example – BP should have made changes, worked on mitigating risk and been much more attuned to how others in the industry were operating, in order to comply with industry regulations and uphold their reputation.
There are some key questions to consider here: do your customers and investors expect a responsible approach to EHS and risk management? Or, would a bad track record impact your customer or investor perceptions of your brand? How would your business be disrupted if an incident occurred? Are you getting better at reducing incidents over time? Are you using the people in your business to inform you exactly how well your operations perform in terms of EHS risk? After all, they are your most powerful asset and, with devices in their hands, can aid your journey to getting better visibility and control over your EHS.
EHS should not be a burden or back-office job for business. It is about your people and your environment, and should aid productivity, reputation and business retention, when done well. When good practice is adhered to, a small investment in effective health and safety management solutions can reap big rewards in the long term. Investors look at company performance and potential for growth, undoubtedly with a huge focus on markets and sustainability.
Take British engineering giant Keller – a £1.6bn company with health and safety at the very top of the executive agenda. For Keller, progressive health and safety is better for business, it creates more successful, sustainable business and they know it.
Read more on health and safety at work:
- Employers’ liability insurance: What, why and how
- Busted: The 10 most ridiculous health and safety myths
- How to protect your workforce against Britain’s top 10 occupational dangers
It’s critical that companies understand the benefits of compliance for reputation – negative news coverage can see your market share take a huge hit. There is a simple risk theory – the more you report in terms of risk and near miss data, the more insight you have into where things can go wrong, and the better informed you are to address these problems before they worsen.
At the most basic level we see companies struggling to implement good risk management systems – usually for two reasons. One, the systems typically used are clunky and unappealing. Two, EHS is seen as something that is boring or extra work. Technology breaks down these barriers by making it interesting for anyone in a company to get involved in the EHS culture.
Environmental, health and safety is not just essential as a compliance activity, but also for allowing overall progression for any business. A healthy and happy workforce is a productive one which attracts talent and grows. Companies with their eye on their triple-bottom-line outperform their peers on the stock market – most companies know that but are still grappling with how to make it a reality.
Businesses should think differently – if I put an app in your hand allowing anyone in your company to report an incident or near miss with no training, what visibility would that give you? If you could break down the cultural barriers to EHS and make people interested, would that make your business a healthier place to be? With the mobile internet trend where it is, EHS can really have its day – and it will.
James Jameson is VP product strategy at Rivo.