Small businesses need to consider the health and wellbeing of staff as a top priority. Successful companies often cite their employee’s professionalism, commitment and hard work as the main reason why customers keep on buying from them. In times of economic slowdown it may be tempting to reduce staff training, but employers have legal obligations – as well as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage.

In times of economic slowdown it may be tempting for employers to reduce staff training and cut costs, but it’s important for small businesses to consider the health and wellbeing of staff as a top priority, not least because of the legislative requirements. It can also provide an opportunity to gain competitive advantage. A good background in health and safety policies helps small companies to meet their business objectives.

The Law

Employers have a legal responsibility to protect the health and safety of their staff and other people (such as customers and members of the public) who may be affected by their work. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 states that every employer has a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees. This duty of care includes the provision of necessary information, instruction, training and supervision. Workers are also expected to look after their own health and safety and others who may be affected by their actions.

Additional benefits

Managing health and safety should not be seen as a regulatory burden though; it also offers many financial benefits. Big businesses invest a lot in good health and safety practices. As well as training all employees in the basics of health and safety, they often employ dedicated health and safety specialists who are responsible for meeting stringent targets, such as reducing workplace accidents and employee absence rates. Large businesses realise that as well as potential cost savings, health and safety improves their reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities, which in turn protects long term stock value.

While it is not appropriate for all businesses to employ this level of expertise, good health and safety supports small companies to meet their business objectives. If a staff member is absent, this is more acutely felt in small businesses because there is a knock-on effect as lack of flexibility to replace the employee impacts overall productivity. If the absence is work-related and therefore avoidable, the investment in health and safety can be justified. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) offers a range of quality controlled, accredited health and safety qualifications, based on international standards, for managers, supervisors and all other employees. CIEH qualifications can be tailored for any industry and proven to be an excellent way for businesses to demonstrate they have objectively complied with health and safety training requirements as well as positive long-term investment in their workforce.

For further details visit www.safetybusiness.co.uk or www.ciehtraining.co.uk