This is an extended version of the Expert Opinion to be published in the Annual Health & Safety Report for the Business Reporter magazine for the Sunday Telegraph June 2016
With H&S, a penny saved isn’t always a penny earned. The TRUE COSTS to your business from scrimping on H&S may be higher than you think. In terms of H&S, cost-cutting runs the risk of providing only minimal safety, comfort or wellbeing, or reducing H&S to a superficial box-ticking formality – all the while believing that the money saved is improving your bottom line as a business. However, the reality is that the TRUE COSTS to your business from scrimping on H&S may be far higher than you think.
It’s certainly not always the case, but I do regularly encounter companies – usually of small to medium size – that reject a product simply on the basis of the purchase price alone, even if they like the product.
But the true costs of such a decision to reject a higher level of H&S are almost never considered, as they are not easy to calculate.
THE COSTS THAT GO UNNOTICED
Whether you know it or not, your company will be paying more than it needs to on the following intangible or hard to measure costs:
• Increased workplace inefficiencies
• Increased staff discomfort
• Increased staff injuries & medical conditions
• Absenteeism & sick pay
• Compensation claims
• Replacement costs of cheaper PPE, etc.
• Damage to reputation (following a major but preventable incident)
Over time, these costs can far exceed the initial costs of quality H&S, whilst adding no extra value to your business.
Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.
H.Jackson Brown, Jr
A BETTER WAY TO SPEND YOUR MONEY
Conversely, the money is often far better spent on quality H&S at the outset.
Case studies repeatedly show directors who genuinely prioritise high quality H&S reap lucrative financial and performance rewards over time. These can include improvements of over 50% in the above areas, as well as in staff retention, a more efficient, motivated workforce and reduced insurance premiums, and so on.
Not only will you reduce your overall costs in the above ways, but your company will also gain from the practical benefits brought about by the superior H&S systems and products that you have purchased.
In assessing an item of H&S expenditure, it is worth estimating how these hard-to-measure costs can be affected.
Another thing worth considering is that innovative products can be a bit of a double-edged sword. The potential advantages they can bring may be clear, but the mere fact that they now exist raises the duty of care for employers. So, in future compensation claims, the opposing lawyers can claim that as new solutions were now available, even if previously for decades they were not, companies who have not provided them can find themselves more heavily punished for rejecting such products, as compared to before such solutions existed.
THE DECISION COMES FROM THE TOP
The Health & Safety Culture of a company is usually a Director or Board level decision. So it is vital that business leaders understand how their leadership decisions will come back to either bite them, or benefit them.
In all of the case studies, it was the Directors who made that call to invest in better H&S, and who reaped the greatest financial rewards.
It is hard to imagine how a greater investment in H&S can ever backfire. But easy to imagine how a lack of it can. Is it worth gambling your business on it?
• Focus less on just the purchase price of a product and more on evaluating the potential savings in each of the areas outlined above.
• Perform staff surveys for feedback on PPE, comfort or wellbeing products.
• Try and find lower cost suppliers for basic items. I personally know that prices can vary enormously. Directors should check that they are procuring from companies that are providing the best value.
• If the initial costs still put you off, have a look at my article here, which explains how you may be able to get the best H&S innovative products to your workforce, without it costing your company a penny.