Plant & Works Engineering

Employee welfare

Published:  30 November, 1999


ROSPA - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

The manufacturing sector, like other industry areas, consists of companies of a range of sizes and structures. Regardless of company size, however, the law requires that all employers ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work. Roger Bibbings, RoSPA occupational safety adviser for Plant and Works Engineering, reports.

It is important to bear in mind that SMEs are not simply smaller versions of large companies and that they face distinct challenges when dealing with occupational safety and health.

Accident rates, for example, are generally higher in smaller firms, although the interval between serious things happening tends to be much longer, so it can seem as though things are actually safer.

But for a smaller business, the immediate effects of an accident or illness at work may be much more severe. The absence of a key member of staff for a prolonged period of time, for example, could result in huge losses - in terms of worker morale, time, wages, orders and output.

Because of these challenges, it is important that any efforts to help raise health and safety standards in small firms are targeted at the very specific issues they face.

For this reason, RoSPA's National Occupational Safety and Health Committee is holding an 18-month inquiry to improve help for small firms on health and safety.

The Committee is calling for evidence on the quality of health and safety advice given to small firms, how to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and the duplication of effort, how to share good practice and how to encourage greater collaboration between key players.

The Society is also developing ways to practically equip smaller firms with the skills they need to effectively manage health and safety, helping them to overcome time and financial constraints. An example of this is the recently launched Growing Business Safety Kit (available soon, call 0870 777 2227 (Birmingham) or 0870 777 2228 (Edinburgh) for details).

A free advice pack for smaller firms is available at  . Details of the inquiry and how to take part can also be found on the website.