Column: Why Do Businesses Ignore the Health in Health and Safety?

By Gareth Jenkins, Managing Director, DS Smith

Jenkins

The recent World Economic Forum in Davos saw a great number of business moguls and political giants unite to address the world’s most pressing global issues.

But ask the attendees how they found the forum, as one BBC reporter did, and their response might be one of frustration at their lack of time to exercise, especially during the event.

It’s no secret that some of the planet’s most successful individuals stick to rigorous fitness regimes, which makes sense; the motivation and determination required to push yourself physically are the same skills needed to reach the top of the career ladder.

This got me thinking about the power of health and fitness and whether businesses on the whole should be doing more when it comes to health and wellbeing programs.

Health Over Safety
Most organizations have health and safety policies, and, as a manufacturing business, we take safety extremely seriously. However, in many organizations, “safety” dominates these policies and wellbeing initiatives often fall by the wayside. But, at what cost does this come to a business?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 23.3 million working days were lost because of work-related ill health in 2014–15, and NHS England estimates that this costs employers and tax payers around GBP 22 billion a year.

Furthermore, research by the Department for Work and Pensions indicates that almost 50% of the UK workforce will be 50 or older by 2024.

This, coupled with the removal of the fixed retirement age 5 years ago, points to the fact that the UK workforce is aging and more people are suffering from long-term health problems.

A healthier workforce has a direct correlation with increased productivity and more engaged and committed employees. Individuals are more engaged and customers see a difference in the quality of their products; wellbeing is more than worth the investment.

Read the full column here.