By Sarah Walker
Jacksons Law Firm believes that if business owners implement stringent guidelines in their health and safety procedures it will help to avoid being called to court to answer for potential breaches.
The firm’s H&S arm works with its clients to prevent businesses owners falling foul of health and safety legislation and incurring hefty fines – and in worse case scenarios save lives.
Mark Stouph, a consultant in the regulatory team at Jacksons, highlights the stark and devastating reality of the issue of health and safety at work.
“In the UK in the last year, there were 123 workplace fatalities,” says Mark, a former regulator with the Environment Agency carrying out environmental prosecutions.
“All businesses have a responsibility to make sure their workers are safe when they are carrying out their duties.”
Mark has personal experience of shouldering the weight of such responsibility, after moving from the Environment Agency to work as director of a waste management company, working on health, safety and environmental issues.
During his time with that company, he also completed a master’s degree in health, safety and environmental law, before joining Jacksons six years ago.
Now, having seen health and safety from the perspective as both a regulator and an employer over a 25-year career, he is well placed to ensure other organisations exceed their statutory requirements when it comes to keeping their employees safe.
“There are two elements to the health and safety advice we provide at Jacksons,” he explains.
“They include the contentious side of things – if you get into trouble with the Health and Safety Executive we can provide advice or represent you in court.
“However, we believe that helping clients when they are being prosecuted is a bit late in the day, so we also provide a consultancy service and prevent clients from being prosecuted.”
Mark’s visits to clients’ premises allow him to carry out a thorough health and safety audit and based on the outcome, he can then advise them on things like risk assessments and assist them in achieving the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Standard.
ISO 45001 is the world’s international standard for occupational health and safety, while not a legal requirement, it can be an indication of best practice and a good safety culture in an organisation.
Mark says: “It’s not just the big organisations who need advice on Health and Safety issues.
“We work with big national companies and really small companies with two or three employees from a wide range of sectors including construction, education, energy and waste management, healthcare, local government, manufacturing and transport.”
Implementing the ISO 45001 standard has a number of benefits, beyond simply reducing accidents and incidents.
“By having a system in place that identifies the risks in a business and puts effective controls in place, you’re going to reduce your accidents and incidents straight away,” Mark says.
“Something that is also quite key at the moment is, it reduces staff absences.
“There are no accidents and stress is reduced because of the work environment, so that improves staff presence at work.
“In the recruitment market at the moment, it’s really difficult to employ and retain staff, so making sure that your current staff are healthy and able to attend work is really important.”
Businesses who implement the standard can also benefit from reduced insurance costs.
“One client I dealt with had experienced a number of accidents over two or three years and when they came to renew their insurance, the company weren’t going to insure them,” Mark says.
“I went in and worked with the company and we got a commitment to put this standard in place and on the basis of that, the insurance company agreed to reinsure them – so that was a good outcome.
“Obviously, if you’re reducing your accidents, insurance premiums will also come down.”
Mark is also a firm believer that having the standard in place improves the culture of an organisation, which in turn improves staff morale and engagement with health and safety practices.
Putting the standard in place also creates and understanding of the rules and regulations businesses have to comply with, which means they are less likely to fall foul of them and be prosecuted.
It can also enhance your reputation in the eyes of others.
“When you put the standard in place in your organisation, you can stand out in the market, which is especially important in procurement,” Mark says.
“A lot of procurement exercises ask whether you have any recognised standards around quality or health and safety.
“If you’ve got this standard, it puts you ahead of the pack when you’re bidding for work with prospects.”
Mark explains that the key principles to the standard are plan, do, check and act.
In the planning phase, an employer looks at its occupational health and safety risks and what opportunities exist to reduce them.
Once you’ve done that, you put objectives and processes in place to control those risks.
Checking involves monitoring and measuring your activities around risk reduction and ensuring that they are working, while the ‘act’ element involves continuous improvement.
Mark adds the ‘plan, do, check, act’ cycle is also recommended by the HSE in the UK.
“It’s widely recognised as an effective approach to managing health and safety,” Mark says.
Given that 7,600 people die every single day around the world because of work-related accidents or work diseases it seems it is an important approach to take.
Even Mark, with his 25 years’ experience in health, safety and environmental issues, admits he was “quite staggered” by this huge figure, published in a report by the international labour organisation.
Thankfully, implementing the ISO 45001 standard is a good starting point for firms to ensure they don’t become one of these horrific statistics.
For more information, visit jacksons-law.com.