Why Health and Safety?

31 August by Miriam Heale


Health and safety, still often carries the unfortunate reputation for spoiling everyone’s fun. They are the department who make children wear eye protection for conker fights or puts a stop to pancake races. 

Those in the profession are stereotyped as high-vis wearing, clipboard wielding party poopers.

But what is health and safety, as a profession really like?

Reality Check

Health and safety is a necessary part of our lives. It’s a complex discipline that suits a logical mind.

Quite often health and safety professionals are phenomenal problem solvers because they have the capacity to look at something and not just say ‘what if’ but ‘how does’, ‘how do’ and ‘why does’.

They are the people that solve the Rubik Cube because it’s there to be solved. They’re also the people who have the unenviable task of trying to keep everyone safe.

Which is what health and safety is really all about.

Health and safety is the unspoken, invisible, safety net that saves us from ourselves and our inherent need to rush or mistake convenience for logic when carrying out tasks.

It keeps us safe so we can do a great job, in a safe, clean and healthy environment, without injury or illness so we can go home and enjoy our lives.

More than that, it provides us with a simple ethical prompt that points us towards the right course of action, even when no one’s looking.

Health and safety is not about preventing lawsuits. It’s about nurturing an ethical way of working that not only protects the individual, but the working community as a whole.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The logic behind creating an environment where mutual respect and support is encouraged is it becomes self-perpetuating.

If a company – particularly its leadership – extolls the importance of working safely, in a way that values, cares for and invests in the employee, it takes significantly less time and effort to implement and monitor policy.

In many ways this works along the same principles of normalisation.

This social theory is based on the idea that we normalise our behaviour to conform to the social order, whatever that social order may be.

So in an environment where process is carried out correctly because everyone is pulling together, a new employee who uses a swivel chair to change a light bulb would stand out from the crowd.

They don’t need to be ‘told off’ or otherwise penalised as the culture within the office will naturally correct what they have done.

But the point is this: health and safety is now an entirely more holistic discipline. It’s an all-encompassing model that not only considers an employee’s safety but their wellbeing.

To be clear, high-vis vests and risk assessments aren’t going anywhere, but then again, they shouldn’t because they serve a genuine purpose.

However, by putting employee welfare and not the business at the centre of the process, you’ll not only get buy-in from the ground up, but also health and safety processes that aren’t needlessly complex and inefficient.

So why Health and Safety

Modern health and safety weirdly does what it says on the tin. It’s no longer an abstract term that really relates to regulation, compliance and stifling process.

The primary concern for health and safety professionals is your all-encompassing health and your safety.

Work related illness and injury costs the UK economy £14 billion a year so there is a legitimate business case for a strong health and safety function but that’s the end result, not the reason.

Preventing illness and injury is simply the right thing to do.

The change in approach is actually part of the modern business movement that champions employees as valued assets not resources to be expended and discarded.

It recognises that over worked, under supported employees are inefficient, unhappy and vulnerable to sickness or injury. A team member being injured or on long term sickness leave puts strain on the team and has a catastrophic and far reaching impact on employee morale.

‘Holistic’ health and safety is the belief that employees who are happy and healthy are more productive and less likely to become unwell.  They are also more likely to stay in their jobs.

And that’s good for business.

If you would like advice or support in your search for a corporate health and safety expert, contact our team of specialist recruiters now via our website or on 01202 888 986.