Complying with COSHH legislation is a legal responsibility for businesses that can prove to be a complex and onerous task, but why is COSHH important? And what are the benefits of implementing effective COSHH control measures?
We’ve outlined five of the key reasons why you should have a proactive COSHH strategy in place, as well as the advantages these can bring to your business.
1. Maintain the health and safety of staff
In all aspects of health and safety, the number one priority should be the wellbeing of your staff. Not only is it a legal requirement, but businesses also have the moral obligation to make sure that their people are kept safe and healthy. Having adequate COSHH control measures in place can ensure that your staff are not being exposed to the hazardous substances that are used in your processes.
The effects of exposure to hazardous substances are not always immediately apparent so, to make sure that your staff are protected, a proactive COSHH strategy is needed from day one. A fit and healthy workforce will reduce the amount of lost working days in your business, save the associated costs of staff absence and improve production levels.
Key stat: There are an estimated 13,000 deaths each year due to past exposures at work, primarily linked to chemicals or dust.
2. Ensure that staff feel protected and valued
It is no secret that a workforce that feels important and valuable is a productive one. Implementing robust strategies to comply with COSHH legislation can help demonstrate to your employees that you take their safety and wellbeing at work very seriously.
Workers that feel protected from the risks of hazardous substances can then complete their duties with the utmost confidence that their employers have put the necessary COSHH control measures in place to make their working environment comfortable and safe.
The benefits of ensuring that your staff feel valued is not solely linked to optimum productivity levels. Staff that feel that their health is a priority for their employers are far more likely to remain at that business for longer, meaning that you can retain your best people, save on recruitment costs and reap the benefits of upskilling and training motivated staff.
Key stat: There were a total of 25.7 million working days lost due to work-related ill health in the UK in 2016/17.
3. Protect professional reputation
In today’s digital age, news and information is available instantaneously from almost any location, which means that word travels fast. Should a COSHH related incident occur at your business and an employee is harmed as a result, it would not take long for businesses across the country to become aware. This will result in damage to your company’s reputation, which will deter businesses and potential employees from working with you, adversely affecting your business performance and longevity.
In increasingly competitive markets, key decisions are now more often being made on factors such as professional reputation as companies look to conduct business in a more ethical manner. Operating in compliance with COSHH legislation will reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring and, in turn, prevent the potential knock-on effects, including reputational damage.
Key stat: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a total of 9,495 enforcement notices in 2016/17.
4. Reduce likelihood of financial penalties
Since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced in February 2016, the HSE has increased the severity of the fines it issues to businesses for poor health and safety practices.Penalties are now directly linked to the organisation’s turnover, which means that larger businesses can now potentially be fined millions of pounds for serious breaches.
Since the new approach was introduced, there have been 38 fines issued at £500,000 or above, with one case reaching the maximum £5 million penalty. These hefty penalties were introduced to ensure that large businesses take health and safety more seriously and are applicable across all types of malpractice, including COSHH. The magnitude of these fines means that a COSHH accident or incident can have severe financial implications for a business.
Having a proactive and robust COSHH strategy in place can reduce the likelihood of a COSHH related incident occurring and, in turn, reduce the potential for enforcement action from the HSE and a substantial financial penalty.
Key stat: In 2016/17, the HSE and Scotland Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) handed out an all-time high £69.9 million in fines for health and safety offences.
5. Build commercial advantage
Having a proactive COSHH strategy in place can also give you the edge when vying for new work, with businesses now seeing successful health and safety management as an advantage against competitors. Also, the reduction in the amount of lost days due to a protected and valued workforce will see your company save substantial resource which can be re-invested in other areas of the business to further enhance commercial performance.
Having an effective and robust COSHH strategy in place brings many benefits and they all accumulate to give you the opportunity to gain an advantage over your competitors. Adhering to COSHH legislation allows you to keep your staff safe, increase productivity among your workforce, maintain and build on your business reputation, and attract and retain the best talent in your industry.
Key stat: New cases of ill health cost UK employers a total of £2.9 billion in 2016/17.