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How Competency And Compliance Feed A Health & Safety Culture

With Sysmax products managing competency and compliance at every level, companies can create a positive health and safety culture.

The UK has a strong health and safety culture in the workplace. Legislation covers the broader aspects of occupational health and safety, as well as the specifics of reporting accidents and incidents at work. Of course, this is sometimes parodied in certain media outlets as ‘health and safety gone mad’. But the reality is that managing risks really does save lives. Competency and compliance management feeds through to health and safety at every level. In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at how Sysmax products can help improve the health and safety culture when it comes to looking after staff health and broader public safety.

Workplace injuries and ill-health in the UK: a snapshot

A starting point for understanding UK health and safety is the statistics on workplace injuries and ill-health from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Latest available HSE workplace injury figures are for 2018-19, when 147 workers died at work (up from 144 in 2017-18). As for non-fatal injuries, there are two sources of information. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) is a self-reporting system which logged 69,208 injuries in 2018-19 (down from 71,062 injuries in 2017-18). But the broader measure in the Labour Force Survey showed 581,000 injuries (up from 555,000 in 2017-18). Of non-fatal injuries, 37% were slips, trips and falls, while handling, lifting and carrying accounted for 20%. Together, non-fatal workplace injuries caused the loss of an estimated 4.7 million working days across 2018-19.

The effects of ill health are even more striking. Figures show 1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in 2018-19. Of these, just under half a million were new diagnoses within the year. Stress, anxiety or depression accounted for 44% of the total, with musculoskeletal disorders accounting for a further 37%. As a result, an estimated 23.5 million working days were lost due to work-related ill-health during 2018-19.

Failure to protect workers is a costly business

The UK’s robust health and safety legislation has reduced the number of accidents in recent years. Under sentencing guidelines tightened up in 2016, fines imposed on UK companies for health and safety breaches were £54.5 million during 2018-19. A sliding scale of fines is designed to ensure an impact on their bottom line proportionate to the company’s size. Companies with a turnover of more than £50 million can now be fined up to £20 million in cases of corporate manslaughter. In the most severe cases, the legislation now also allows for directors to face custodial sentences of up to life imprisonment. Fines are having an effect; enforcement authorities issued fewer notices of legislative breaches to employers in 2018-19.

Yet despite the improvements, workplace accidents and newly diagnosed illness cost the UK economy massively. The HSE estimates these costs in 2018-19 at £15.0 billion. This covers both ‘human’ costs (impacts on individuals’ quality of life, or loss of life), and ‘financial’ costs (loss of production and healthcare costs). Ill-health accounts for two-thirds of this cost. Despite injuries accounting for a greater proportion of breaches, ill-health results in more time off work on average, driving higher costs.

Creating a positive health and safety culture

When it comes to health and safety, best practice relies on a positive culture, where employers protect their staff properly and can potentially save their lives. Anecdotally, we know that many workers believe their company puts productivity above health and safety. In these same businesses, management may see things differently. So, if you haven’t got the right culture, compliance can be difficult to achieve. A starting point for a positive health and safety culture must centre on assessing risks and understanding current safety management systems. If you don’t get these things right, you’re not going to have sufficient risk mitigation in place to reflect reality. However well-framed health and safety policies may be, a poor understanding of risk fundamentally undermines health and safety practice.

And it’s not just major hazard industries that need to be concerned about safety culture; every industry sector needs an effective safety culture. By making safety an asset, rather than a liability, companies can bring positive, demonstrable results throughout their business. Much of this comes down to clear lines of responsibility. But it also comes down to openness, regular review, and learning from the process to get buy-in for health and safety culture at every level.

Step forward, Sysmax products

With the suite of Sysmax products behind them, companies can create that positive health and safety culture by managing competency and compliance. Matching skills and experience within and across teams ensures that everyone is doing their job safely to the best of their abilities. It may be established employees demonstrating that they can continue to act in a role they’ve held for a while. Or it may be ensuring that new inductees to a company are rapidly trained as safe and competent in all the processes they use on a daily basis. What’s more, as individuals get recognised for their skills and experience, it promotes staff wellbeing too. For companies serious about health and safety, Sysmax can help.

To find out more about how Sysmax products can contribute to a positive health and safety culture, contact one of the team today.


Post by Peter McAteer

Peter is the founder and CEO of Sysmax, a market-leader in the areas of compliance, performance improvement and competency management. He has more than 35 years’ experience working with global leaders in high-risk industries such and oil and gas extraction. Peter’s focus is on driving performance improvement though analysis of business compliance and staff competency, including risk analysis, high technology engineering and value development. He works with clients to ensure they make the most of the opportunities inherent with the Sysmax suite



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