Manufacturing is proving a moneyspinner for the Health and Safety Executive’s Fee for Intervention scheme. A more proactive approach to health & safety training and compliance in the sector would allow employers to avoid FFI fees while improving productivity and, most importantly, saving lives argues Clive James, Training Officer at St John Ambulance.
Figures published this summer by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that manufacturing businesses were the most affected by the Fee for Intervention (FFI) in the first six months of its operation.
Introduced in October 2012, FFI is an HSE cost recovery scheme. It allows the HSE to charge companies in breach of health and safety regulations £124 per hour for an inspection.
There only needs to be a material breach for the scheme to be implemented, meaning a simple letter from the HSE demanding a violation be put right could now result in considerable costs for businesses.
The latest HSE report on FFI shows the manufacturing industry is responsible for 42% of revenue generated by the initiative, considerably more than other sectors with increased health and safety risks, including construction (27%) and services (21%).
Figures from the HSE show that during the first six months of FFI, the manufacturing sector was invoiced a modest £1,118,400.
But the number of invoices and revenue generated increased month-on-month and could continue to do so due to the HSE’s legacy work tailing off and companies being invoiced over several months while a case is ongoing.
As a result it is uncertain where average monthly figures will settle, but, regardless, the cost to employers looks set to increase.
In 2012 the manufacturing sector account for 16% of workplace related injuries in the UK, despite only employing 10% of the national workforce.
A spur for improvement
The threat of FFI has put a cost-driven spur behind the establishment of proactive health and safety policies.
And while the scheme is undoubtedly helping the HSE cover its costs, it is also bringing much needed attention to the need for improved health and safety compliance – especially in high risk industries like manufacturing.
The more attentive approach to health and safety that FFI is driving, should bring multiple benefits to the sector in terms of productivity.
In 2011/12 the UK manufacturing industry accounted for 16% of injuries in the workplace, despite employing just 10% of the British workforce. As a result, an estimated 1.8 million working days were lost due to self-reported work-related illness, and a further 651,000 due to self-reported work-related injury, in the sector.
The UK manufacturing sector is responsible for 31 deaths in the workplace annually
The cost of workplace injuries and ill health to organisations is significant; taking into consideration all industries, it is estimated to cost society £13.4 billion annually.
These macro-figures are staggering, but for individual SMEs the cost of a health and safety breach via absenteeism and lost productivity, coupled now with FFI fees, can be potentially crippling.
Businesses striving for growth need to avoid these potential setbacks and make a serious move towards addressing health and safety in the workplace; identifying the risks and legislation applicable to them and taking the steps needed to meet their legal requirements.
Moreover, ensuring health and safety compliance is not only cost-saving; it is potentially life saving too.
Carelessness and complacency costs lives
The manufacturing industry is accountable for approximately 31 deaths in the workplace annually, but with the right training and protocols in place most accidents are preventable.
The nature of workplaces in the manufacturing sector, particularly food manufacturing environments, which report twice the rate of major injuries compared with the sector as a whole, means there is an increased risk of preventable accidents.
Companies can safeguard employees and reduce the number of working days lost each year by ensuring staff receive appropriate health and safety training to help minimise specific hazards in the workplace.
The most common cause of accidents in the manufacturing industry is contact with an object; frequently cited as a moving object or machinery.
Overexertion is also a major problem in the sector, with 22% of accidents arising due to activities involving lifting, pulling, pushing and carrying, which typically result in muscular damage and other internal injuries.
Less frequently occurring, but still posing significant risk to manufacturing workplaces, are falls, repetitive motion and exposure to harmful substances or environments.
Know your workplace
Yet work environments and activities carried out vary widely across the sector, meaning most businesses will have different health and safety risks and requirements. Companies that implement bespoke health and safety initiatives tailored to their individual needs are likely to see the most successful results.
Ready-meal manufacturer Kettleby Foods reduced accidents at its plant in Melton Mowbray by 77% over a five year period after successfully implementing bespoke safety systems designed to address the human error and failure to follow procedures that accounted for the majority of its accidents.
The company now conducts Management Safety Tours, which require managers to carry out departmental health and safety audits on a three monthly cycle, engaging with employees about concerns and demonstrating a commitment to making the workplace safer.
The procedure was implemented alongside a behavioural intervention process for poorer-performing shifts, which sees managers working with employees to encourage safer behaviour in the workplace, and continuous improvement initiatives which incorporate productivity, quality and efficiency as well as health and safety.
St John Ambulance recommends SMEs across the manufacturing sector adopt a similar approach to health and safety policy; implementing procedures based on the fundamental risks and failures identified within their business.
It’s about getting back to the basics of health and safety and understanding the needs of the individual workplace. Health and safety training for staff of all levels will help promote policies and develop an understanding of best-practice procedures, but it requires buy-in from senior managers to ensure the business acts on the learning from any training investment.
See sja.org.uk/training for more information.