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HSE campaign emphasises business benefits

A national advertising campaign is being backed up by a new website that spotlights several companies that have applied a managed approach to health and safety and reaped the benefits through improved profitability.

Jane Kennedy MP, the Minister for Work, said: "This is an impressive range of companies who have produced case studies proving that an active approach to health and safety is good for business. In particular, the reductions in days lost through ill-health that some have achieved pay-off financially and should encourage other businesses to follow their example."

Among the case studies is one from Rolls-Royce plc which realised savings of £11million through an active absence management policy, achieving an absence reduction of around 15 per cent to a rate well below the estimated national average. There was also a detectable fall in the proportion of absence due to stress from around 20 per cent to 16 per cent. "Companies should adopt absence management policies," said John Rivers, Rolls Royce human resources director. "They are a positive contribution to help people return to work as soon as is reasonable and they help to significantly reduce costs incurred by avoidable absences."

Other examples on the website include: British Polythene Industries (BPI), which introduced a rehabilitation scheme and achieved a reduction of over 80 per cent in the number of working days lost due to musculoskeletal disorders; and Severn Trent reduced its total number of accidents by almost 50 per cent and the proportion of those attributable to musculoskeletal disorders from 75 per cent to around 20 per cent with a resultant decrease in days lost through absence and an anticipated reduction in civil liability claims.

Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, said: "There is a real and growing body of evidence that effective health and safety management is good for business. Whether it is reduced insurance premiums or claims, fewer staff absences, less turnover and recruitment costs - there are now many examples of how companies have made positive health and safety decisions work for them. The message of sensible and proportionate health and safety is one on which business should act."

Timothy Walker, the HSE's director general, summed up by saying: "These case studies have a vital role to play in taking forward the business case agenda for health and safety. There are powerful messages coming out of many of them - namely that managing health and safety cannot be viewed in isolation from managing a business overall. The studies highlight the contribution that good communications, sound training and development and meaningful worker involvement all make."

Workplace accidents and ill health cost the UK economy up to £6.5billion per year. A good deal of this is uninsured costs which employers bear themselves through reduced profitability. The HSE believes that investment in this area yields positive results in financial as well as personal and societal terms. Enlightened companies realise that good health and safety ultimately makes business sense on many levels.

British Polythene Industries' group health and safety manager, Andy Collinson, said: "This scheme created the solutions we needed in terms of health and safety and occupational health. It was popular with the workforce and their representatives and it made excellent business sense. In financial terms, the benefits outweigh the costs by 12:1. We were able to make a case for improvement, prioritise areas and demonstrate the impact we have had from hard measurable facts."

Severn Trent's chief executive, Colin Matthews, stated: "The fact that good health and safety is good business shouldn't surprise anyone. The same tools and techniques that deliver excellent health and safety performance also deliver excellent quality and productivity. What tools and techniques? Getting all employees involved, working with good data, recognising that there is no limit to possible improvements."

The other five companies and organisations featured in the case studies on the new HSE website are: The Associated Octel Company, Port of London Authority, Legoland Windsor, St Regis Paper Company and Wilson James.

Several interactive tools are also available through the new website. The HSE has developed cost calculators to enable companies to estimate the financial benefits that can be achieved through better health and safety.

An 'Annual Accident Costs Calculator' allows users to estimate, using three different methods, the potential uninsured costs of accidents to an organisation each year. Adding to these the money spent on insurance premiums indicates the potential total annual costs of accidents.

An 'Incident Costs Calculator' allows users to input the actual (or best estimated) costs for an incident so that the real costs of an incident can be tracked.

Lastly, an 'Ill-Health Costs Calculator' helps users work out the costs of employees who are off work because of a work-related illness.

All of these, as well as the case studies, can be accessed via the HSE's Better Business website .

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