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Workers at risk as 33% of SMEs experienced accidents in the past year

13 November 2014

Nearly a quarter of owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) confess that they have nobody in their organisation with adequate health and safety training, and more than 50% of companies do not meet required standards, it's been revealed.

Figures also show that almost one third of SMEs have experienced a workplace accident in the last year which could have been avoided with proper training and equipment.

According to Protecting.co.uk, a UK health and safety law consultancy, these shocking figures show the risks that many business owners are prepared to take, putting the lives and wellbeing of millions of workers at stake.

"Health and Safety isn't a supposed to be a gamble," says Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, "But far too many bosses are taking the risk of not training their staff correctly, and this is resulting in needless deaths and injuries."

A recent YouGov poll of SME employers found that:
  • 22% of employers admitted there are one or fewer people in their organisation with adequate health and safety training
  • 32% of firms had experienced at least one accident in the past calendar year that might have been prevented had there been correct procedures, training and safety equipment
  • Only 40% thought their accident prevention regimes were adequate.
Protecting.co.uk says that it's not hugely surprised by these figures as the economic downturn and pressures on both budgets and staff head-count mean that corners are bound to be cut when it comes to workplace safety.

"From our own experience, some SME owners tell us they haven't got the time or money to 'waste' on health and safety and that's just wrong," Hall says. "We need to tell these managers that it's an investment and not a cost."

This is amply illustrated by figures published by the Health and Safety Executive which show a cost of over £14 billion to British business as a result of workplace accidents and illnesses in one year alone. In perspective, that's nearly £500 for every single one of the 29 million people in employment in the UK.

"In a small company of 20 employees, look at that potential loss of £10,000 and think of it better spent on training and safety equipment," says Hall. "That's a lot of training, and a lot of gear, with a clear return on investment."

In fact, the bar set for compliance levels at smaller companies isn't all that high if they are involved in low risk enterprises, Protecting.co.uk points out. In some circumstances, only one person needs to be appointed as a competent person for health and safety purposes. In higher risk organisations, specialist training may be required, and managers may find better value and more appropriate expertise by appointing third-party experts.

With three-quarters of workers in the logistics sector and two-thirds in manufacturing saying that they feel at danger in the workplace, it's clear that health and safety is an issue that needs to be taken seriously by all owners and employers, no matter how big or small the organisation.