Safety Byte: Health & Safety: The answer to the UK’s productivity gap?


Safety Byte: Health & Safety: The answer to the UK’s productivity gap?

Posted on 06 March 2020

​We meet Peter McGettrick – Director of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality at Turner & Townsend.

In this video Peter discusses; What challenges the UK currently faces on productivity? What impact health and safety can have on productivity? How health & safety can improve productivity? and the return on investment for organisations from investing in health and safety.

Turner & Townsend are a leading independent professional services company specialising in programme management, project management, cost and commercial management and consulting across the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors.

Productivity, what is the UK’s challenge?

OK, so productivity is a huge challenge to the UK, but it's also a challenge across the globe. So there's an increasingly widening gap between the productivity of the UK and those leading advanced economies across the globe.

So for instance, to match the US's levels of productivity, the UK would have to increase productivity by around 30%, which is a huge amount and a huge gap. So we see there's a huge prize worth striving for to increase productivity in terms of the UK economy.

So one of the ways of doing that is to improve workplace safety because there's a huge link between good workplace safety and good levels of productivity.

How has health and safety impacted productivity?

So the costs, overall, to the UK was 14.9 billion pounds, in terms of new cases of workplace ill health and workplace injuries. In terms of working days lost in the UK, due to workplace injuries and ill health, was 31.2 million working days. It's just a huge cost to the UK.

There was 137 fatalities in the UK last year, which was a slight decrease compared to the previous year, but still a very high number. And more significantly, workplace stress became the number one cause in the UK of work-related illness, overtaking musculoskeletal disorders.

How can health and safety improve productivity?

There's direct correlation between low levels of productivity and poor workplace safety. So the benefits of good workplace health and safety includes low levels of accidents, incidents, low levels of absenteeism, and improved staff morale. So the benefits of better workplace health and safety can really have a big impact on improving productivity, reducing production delays, and improving profits for the company.

Businesses can make the mistake of assuming that to improve productivity, you have to sacrifice other elements such as safety when, in fact, the opposite is true. Evidence suggests that good businesses that are-- have good positive health and safety culture and are well-run are also very well-performing economically as well.

What is the return on investment?

Well, recent studies show that it's an investment-- a return on investment earned 1 to 10. So for every pound that you spend, you get 10 pounds back, whether that's reducing costs or getting more out of people in the organization and more production.

So it's a no-brainer, really, when it comes to businesses, that they should be investing in health and safety because it adds a huge business benefit and shouldn't be seen as a cost that can be cut when the bottom line needs to be improved.

Are there risks involved in improving productivity?

The government launched a Construction 2025 report, which is an ambitious target to improve construction by 2025, reducing costs by 33% and reducing the time of the speed of delivery by 50%. The danger with that is that organizations will try and do the same, but quicker, and that can result in increased accidents rather than improving efficiency.

Organizations that improve the efficiency of operations, and doing that the right way, can have a huge impact on productivity and workplace safety as well. So organizations are turning more and more to lean management techniques in order to streamline processes and maximize efficiency. And it's the approach of the organizations need to take, need to be aware of, rather than just trying to push workers to do more for less. Because that will just have a negative impact on workplace safety.

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