09 January 2023


A Safe Workplace is Sound Business

Michael Robinson, Chief Executive, British Safety Council underlines the importance of organisations embracing premium health and safety products

1. Over the years, the gender dimension in OSH is increasingly gaining currency and it is the need for the hour to integrate women workers and gender perspectives in OSH policies, programs and practices.

It is still the case that women are under-represented when it comes to roles in health and safety, particularly in leadership roles. For example, almost half (47 per cent) of workers in the UK are female, yet there are comparatively few women working in health and safety. IOSH’s membership is around 25 per cent women and research by the TUC in 2011 found that women constitute 27 per cent of trade union health and safety representatives sitting on health and safety committees at workplaces. While many women have gone on to enjoy careers in health and safety, men still far outnumber women.

We may have a long way to go to close the gender gap and achieve equal opportunities for men and women in health and safety. But there are some really encouraging signs of change, with some trailblazer firms looking to attract the best female minds to join positions from apprentice level up to the boardroom. There would be so many benefits to this goal; supporting women to enter industries like construction and engineering by having a management that understands their risks and needs, for example. With some evidence suggesting that gender-balanced workplaces perform better, perhaps they would be safer too.

2) Even though the need of the hour is to embrace safe, technology enabled but premium products, as India is a very price sensitivity market, it eventually leads to a situation of less compliance to safety. What strategy does British Safety Council wish to follow to increase awareness on compliance and acceptance of premium products.

There is a growing awareness of the impact wellbeing has on individuals, organisations and society. We believe that it makes good business sense to invest in people, processes and technology to improve health, safety and well-being. The evidence is strong to support this economic argument, showing a 2:1 return on investment, evidence that should be better known and appreciated.

There is clear evidence that sensible and proportionate health and safety practices result in reducing lost production time, reduced absenteeism and sick leave, reduced personnel turnover, reduced insurance premiums and reduced liabilities, legal costs and penalties. But it’s not only about saving money and reducing cost. Based on our work with our membership, we can cite many examples of companies gaining much broader benefit, such as a more engaged workforce, winning work and enhanced reputations.

Investments in safety and well-being, if done well, protects both the long-term health of an organisation and its workforce, as it improves performance, culture and motivation, which supports productivity and profitability. It can also reduce costs linked to absenteeism, presenteeism, disability, ill health and staff turnover. To achieve maximum benefit from well-being, it must be an integrated approach encompassing health and safety best practices.

We will continue to demonstrate and publicise the business benefits of well-managed health and safety risks is all about giving employers positive reasons to do the right thing, keep their employees healthy and safe and enable them to thrive at work.

3. Pre-Covid, four Labour codes were initiated, including -- the Code on Wages, Industrial Relations Code, Social Security Code and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, to replace the 29 former labour laws in the country. What is your perspective on the same? Can these codes capture the diversity of the workforce market in India?

The Code on Wages, Industrial Relations Code, Social Security Code, and Occupational Health and Safety Code is set to replace 29 existing labour laws. Through these Codes, the Government of India wants to ensure that the benefits of labour laws related to minimum wages and social security, which currently apply only to the organised sector, reach the workers in the unorganised sector also. For example, The Occupational Health and Safety Code 2020 amalgamates 13 existing labour laws and applies to factories and construction sites having even 20 workers.

However, since labour is a concurrent subject among the Centre and the State (as per the Constitution of India), the States are expected to publish the State Rules to implement the above Codes, based on the Model Rules issued by the Centre already. However, I am aware that only 12 States have published their Rules for the Occupational Health and Safety Code so far.

4. India’s crowded roads need to be safe. Though we have products, barricades and safety cones, more safety is clearly required. What are the products and principles that can enhance road safety in the country?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says factors that contribute to causing India’s high road traffic fatality rate include the diversity of the traffic mix, with high-speed vehicles sharing road space with vulnerable road users. The WHO adds that unsafe road infrastructure and unsafe vehicles contribute to the high number of road deaths.

India has good central legislation, but the challenge is its implementation. The science of road safety is based on taking a holistic approach. For example, the private sector may think road safety is not their priority area of work. It is left for the government’s intervention even though businesses continue to lose precious human resources due to road traffic crashes. Even when business is involved, their activity is mostly restricted to sporadic education activities and the annual road safety week. The result is there is no tangible change on the ground nor any return on their investment.

Businesses across the country need to do more. For example:

· Companies can ensure that all company vehicles have safety systems, GPS and driver fatigue detection devices
· There should be a central registry of all company drivers. This should be done so that when drivers shift jobs from company to company, their training level and experience can be tracked.
· Company drivers should undergo driver refresher training programmes every year.
· Businesses involved in the road transportation sector should set up designated rest stops on highways.
· Company trucks that are driving long distances should have two drivers present to prevent fatigue-related crashes. Both large and small companies should adopt these practices to ensure road safety.

5. At Informa Markets in India, we have a H&S manager, and nowadays we see organisations opt for wellness managers, OSH doctor, and many other designations in this arena. How do you see this transformation and what does it reveal about the industry?

The new positions and roles that are opening in the OSH industry clearly points to the fact that organizations are taking health, safety and wellbeing seriously. However, there is still a great need in India for a culture change regarding workplace health, safety and well-being. Legislation is very important in helping to bring about this change, but safety culture needs safety leaders who will champion it every day and at every level.

6. The British Safety Council has been with OSH since inception 10 years ago. What role in the future does it intend to play to align and enhance its objectives within the framework of the show?

Since its foundation in 1957, the British Safety Council has campaigned tirelessly to protect workers from accidents, hazards, and unsafe conditions. We are committed to protecting and improving the well-being of workers, believing that a healthy and safe work environment is also good for business.

We will continue to help organisations in India achieve the very highest health and safety standards by teaching the right courses to the people who need them. For example, we recently hosted ‘Step Change in Safety Culture’, an expert behavioural safety resource. The programmes within the resource are specifically designed to support Indian organisations seeking to develop, maintain and enhance a positive health and safety culture. At the event, participants were shown how it is possible to introduce and maintain a safety culture within organisations. They were provided with detailed insights into the tools, models, and frameworks that companies could use to build a safety culture. We intend to take our Safety Culture event to other cities in India, including Delhi and Bangalore, over the coming month.

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