The Moral, Legal & Economics Reasons
It is widely accepted that moral reasons should be the prime reason for managing risk, although whether this is actually the case is open to debate in some cases.
There is a need for maintaining a moral code within our society. Without it, employers can be tempted to treat the health and safety of the workforce as being of lower importance than financial profit.
Moral reasons are based on the concept of an employer owing a duty of reasonable care to his or her employees. A person does not expect to risk life and limb, or physical health, as a condition of employment.
Society expects every employer to demonstrate a correct attitude to health and safety to his or her workforce. It is totally unacceptable to place employees in situations where their health and safety is at risk.
In addition to the obvious duties owed by an employer to his or her workers, he or she also has a moral obligation to protect other people whose health and safety may be affected by the undertaking, for example, contractors or members of the public.
Over the years, many moral obligations have been turned into health and safety legislation. The “duty of care” is seen in the UK’s common law judgments. The UK’s Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 (HSWA), and Regulations made under it, follows a long list of legal enactments that reinforce the duty of care.
Many countries have introduced their own legal duties regarding the protection of workers from harm and where this is not the case adoption of other countries’ health and safety laws as best practice is common.
There are strong legal reasons for employers to manage risk:
- Preventive – enforcement notices (improvement or prohibition) can be issued by enforcement inspectors.
- Punitive – where the criminal courts impose fines and imprisonment for breaches of legal duties. These punishments can be given to the company or to individuals within the company.
- Compensatory – where employees are able to sue in the civil courts for compensation.
As has been explained accidents and ill-health are costly and the indirect costs involved are often substantially more than direct costs. The financial burden placed on employers is often a key factor in the ownership and development of safety management systems that will help to reduce the costs of failure and sub-standard practice at work.
The Safety Practitioner will often be required to develop budgets and justifications for implementing safety initiatives and it is here that a sound knowledge and understanding of the costs associated with poor practice is essential if proposals and business cases are to be successful.