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Neal Stone

British Safety Council

Communications Director

Read more from Neal Stone

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TrainingZone interviews: British Safety Council’s Neal Stone


Health and safety at work is more important than ever. We interviewed the British Safety Council's Neal Stone to find out why.

Health and safety regulation has changed considerably in the past few years.  How difficult is it to keep on top of these important changes?

The regulatory requirements concerning workplace health and safety in Great Britain have undergone significant review and reform in the last four years. Every set of regulations and every Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) has been reviewed by HSE, views sought through consultation and substantial changes made including, for example, replacing ACOPs with improved guidance.

The British Safety Council, in response to requests from our members has produced an online tracker detailing the changes to health and safety law that have been implemented or are planned.  The ‘free’ to access tracker provides a detailed breakdown of the regulatory changes and links to the relevant law and supporting guidance. There is a wealth of helpful information and advice on the HSE website concerning these changes.

It is essential that all employers keep abreast of the changes. The cost of being non-compliant could be considerable.     

Many people might not be aware of the financial benefits of having robust health and safety policies and systems. Tell us about some of them.

Health and safety failures that result in workplace injuries or work-related ill health impact on individual employees, employers and society more generally. The financial and social benefits of keeping your workforce healthy and safe are immense. Employees may suffer a loss of earnings through absence; employers may well incur considerable costs in having to employ temporary cover or face the risk of lost productivity; Government has to bear much of the cost of health treatment.

The evidence shows that proportionate and sensible health and safety interventions have a number of positive effects including helping to reduce labour turnover, improve staff morale, ensure maintenance of productivity and a positive impact on the financial ‘bottom line’.  

What is the most compelling evidence that the British Safety Council has come across that will make businesses take health and safety more seriously?

HSE estimated that the cost of workplace ill health and injury in Great Britain in 2012/13 (latest available statistics) was £13.8bn. It affects organisations of all sizes and in all sectors. Injury and ill health is not restricted to high and medium hazard sectors. Remember the number cause of workplace injury are slips, trips and falls – this can impact on every workplace.

In our review of the expert literature concerning the business benefits of health and safety we cite one example of a manufacturing organisation that achieved insurance savings of some £200k per annum as a direct result of introducing a health and wellbeing programme. Another employer, a major passenger train operator, introduced health screening clinics and health education programmes and consequently saw a reduction from 6.2% to 4.2% days lost – a saving of £3m per annum. Our report plus the supporting guidance helps provide employers practical advice on helping cost the consequence of ill health and injury in the workplace and the benefit of proportionate and necessary interventions.    

What would advice would you give organisations who view health and safetypolicies as a burden on business?

You ignore the law at your peril. The British Safety Council and its 6,000 member organisations strongly believe that when the risk of workplace injury and ill health is managed sensibly and proportionately there are considerable financial and social benefits. Turning a blind eye to what the law requires can have many adverse consequences for the business and it employees. 

People do not want to work for an organisation that is cavalier in its attitude to health and safety. Everyone has a reasonable expectation to go home safe and well at the end of the working day. Flouting health and safety law can result in criminal sanctions and financial loss. In addition there may well be incalculable damage to the organisation’s reputation. Ultimately ignoring health and safety could lead to serious injury or even death. It may also mean the end of the business.

What are your top five tips for a healthier workforce?

  • Know what the causes of work-related ill health are in your organisation. It is essential that you understand the risks to health in your organisation. There may well be some surprises.
  • Ensure that ill health is not brushed under the carpet. Around four out of five days lost at work through ‘sickness’ are health related. While stress and musculoskeletal disorders are the main culprits don’t lose sight of other more traditional causes of ill health as work related hearing loss.
  • Have you got access to a source of external expert advice and support on occupational health matters? Relying on your workforce making their own arrangements, for example, through their GP may not necessarily produce the hoped for health improvements. Occupational physicians and nurses have a valuable role to play in identifying and getting to grips with underlying health issues and helping the employee return to work fit and well.
  • More and more employers are grasping that a fit and well workforce is key to productivity and business success. Health issues, when ignored, can have a serious impact of both individual and organisational productivity.  Health and wellbeing programmes are no longer the exception in the UK. Employers have grasped that work-related health problems and unhealthy lifestyles can cause lasting damage. Responsible employers are increasingly addressing wider public health issues around diet, fitness, alcohol consumption and smoking through initiatives as the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal.
  • Don’t ignore health problems among your workforce that are staring you in the face. Health problems, not tackled, can have implications not only for that particular employee but for colleagues and others.   A lack of fitness or chronic overweight can impact on that employee’s performance of their job and the health and safety of others. By putting in place a sound health surveillance programme many of these problems can be alleviated and appropriate remedial action taken. Do some research identifying the big health issues your organisation has to manage and the options for building a health and well workforce.

Neal Stone has responsibility for the work of the British Safety Council’s communications, policy and research team. Neal joined the British Safety Council in May 2008 initially as head of policy and research. Prior to joining the British Safety Council Neal worked as policy adviser in HSE. From 2005-2007 he served as policy adviser to Sir Bill Callaghan, chair of the Health and Safety Commission and Commission members. Neal led HSE’s policy work between 2001 and 2005 on director responsibility, management of health and safety, worker involvement and employer liability insurance. 

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Neal Stone

Communications Director

Read more from Neal Stone

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