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Playing it safe over workplace accidents

At a glance

  • Manufacturers urged to adopt systematic and formalised approach to preventing injuries and fatalities
  • A good health and safety programme needs regularly updating as well as a consistent message from the top of a company
  • Zurich’s expert knowledge and expertise in health and safety matters can also allow a manufacturer to run a more successful business

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Although workplace accidents for manufacturers are on a general downward trend in the UK, complacency should be avoided with firms being urged to deal with health and safety much like they would treat the quality issue.

Statistically, manufacturers continue to account for a high proportion of workplace accidents, and improvements can still be made despite the inherent risks involved in some jobs. The sector is responsible for 25% of UK employee fatalities and 16% of reported injuries to employees despite only accounting for 10% of the UK workforce, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Potential savings

Good health and safety practices can also potentially prevent some nasty surprises to your balance sheet.

Take this example: assume a manufacturer has a 5% profit margin, which is actually touching on nirvana in this financial climate, to cover the cost of a £187,000 claim – not an inordinate claim today – you would need an income of £3.7 million.

“The stat is quite illuminating,” said Jim Wilkes, Senior Technical Underwriter at Zurich.

“We would advise our manufacturing customers that what you do for quality – and you are always aiming for zero defects – is exactly the same approach you should take to other risks like health and safety,” said Jim Wilkes, Senior Technical Underwriter at Zurich.

Good starting point

For a manufacturer, an up-to-date and effective risk management plan is always the first pre-requisite on any health and safety checklist.

“Good risk management is applied common sense,” said Jim. “And often, you shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money on it because your operatives on the floor can be the best adviser that you have because they are doing the job every day.”

Once a risk management plan is up and running, enforcement of it is the next step.

“If your workers need hearing protectors, say, then you have to enforce it,” added Jim. “Because if you take a lackadaisical approach, the plan will eventually fall into disuse.”

Even the best health and safety policy cannot prevent 100% of accidents happening, but it is work done by manufacturers pre-accident that can produce the most benefits, not to mention warding off potentially devastating corporate manslaughter charges.

HSE stats

“It is vital that you have a formalised approach at all times,” said Jim. “And you have to get systematic at everything. You need a system; it seems a bit boring but you have fewer failures.

“Health and safety is also something that doesn’t get solved by putting a solution in. It’s an issue that warrants constant attention. You need constant refreshers and a consistent message from the top.”

Jim added: “Essentially, post-accident there is nothing you can really do – it is then about clean-up and mitigation whether a claim costs £1,000 or £1 million.

“And if you wish to provide a defence against a corporate manslaughter charge, if you haven’t got an effective management approach to health and safety you are going to struggle to provide a defence. With a formalised system, you can provide a defence in the event of an incident.”

A solid defence

Learning from mistakes is another vital tool for a manufacturer to improve its future health and safety record.

A lot of claims failures arise from poor and incomplete paperwork, as well as filling in RIDDOR reports of workplace accidents to the HSE in an inappropriate manner. Zurich can examine past accidents and incidents through a process called claims defensibility in a bid to preventing future claims by highlighting any trends in the statistics and also assessing the robustness of risk assessments in light of a claim.

“We try to separate it out from risk management,” said Jim. “Risk management is always looking forward to preventing claims. While claims defensibility is looking back to see why things failed. The two meet in the middle, ultimately.

“Claims defensibility also resonates with a lot of manufacturers as it relates to their own claims as opposed to risk management that can often sound a bit remote.”

Ultimately, though, firms that manage health and safety well tend to be better firms.

Health and safety is something that doesn’t get solved by putting a solution in. It’s an issue that warrants constant attention

Jim Wilkes, Senior Technical Underwriter at Zurich

“Health and safety isn’t the issue, running a successful business is what you are trying to do,” added Jim. “There are all sorts of things you have to deal with; health and safety is just one of them. Treat it like any other issue; it will respond to management.

“Zurich is one of many insurers who provide employers’ liability insurance – it is required by law – but what we would rather do is have a relationship with customers.

“We have thousands of claims a year. We know exactly what can go wrong, what it can cost and what can be done. Our knowledge is important. In addition, we are selling our knowledge and expertise.

“So if you embed that into your business you will be running a more successful business.”

Image © Getty

For more information, get in touch

Jim Wilkes | Senior Technical Underwriter | 0121 697 8436

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