Safeguarding the wellbeing of workers and complying with laws and regulations are the top drivers for occupational health and safety (OH&S) implementation, according to a new report from DNV GL.
DNV GL’s “Viewpoint Report: Does Occupational Health & Safety matter?” report is based on a survey that was conducted in March involving 1,728 professionals in the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors in Europe, North America, Central-South America, and Asia.
To give the report context, more than 7,600 people worldwide die daily from work-related accidents or diseases. This amounts to 2.78 million people annually. Further to this, an estimated 374 million people suffer from work-related injuries and illnesses. The International Labour Organization estimates that four percent of the world’s annual GDP is lost as a consequence of occupational diseases and accidents. Many of these incidents could be prevented if sound OH&S prevention measures, reporting, and inspection practices are implemented.
The “Viewpoint Report: Does Occupational Health & Safety matter?” report supports the notion that companies with a dedicated, structured, and holistic approach to OH&S benefit in multiple areas.
Safeguarding the wellbeing of workers and complying with laws and regulations were identified in the report as the top OH&S drivers at 82 percent and 79 percent, respectively. Other drivers scored significantly lower, with internal policies (46 percent), business continuity (35 percent), and brand reputation (34 percent) the next to follow.
In terms of risks, the highest areas of concern are attributed to machines and equipment (66 percent) and the working environment (62 percent). Compared with a 2014 survey conducted on the same topic, risks from machines and equipment have grown 29 percent, where risks from the working environment have grown 32 percent. More specific legislation related to machines and working environments over recent years is a potential reason for this growth. Other operational areas of risk include organization of work (41 percent), ergonomic factors (40 percent), and electrical safety (39 percent).
The top two actions indicated by companies to be very effective reflect the operational nature of the two main risk areas indicated by the survey. Regular maintenance of premises, equipment, and facilities, scores 41 percent and emergency measures scores 40 percent. Information and training of employees scores 37 percent.
Not surprisingly, an improved ability to comply with laws and regulations and a reduced number of injuries are listed as the top benefits from implementing safety actions. Fifty-five percent of survey respondents indicated that the benefits from implementing mitigating OH&S actions are greater than the costs. This number increases to 65 percent for companies with a certified OH&S system and 75 percent for companies identified as leaders.
When looking at how companies approach OH&S from a strategic perspective, 50 percent of respondents said OH&S is highly relevant to their overall business strategy, and this figure increases to 62 percent for large companies, and 63 percent for certified companies. However, the picture is different for small companies with less than 50 employees, with only 41 percent indicating that the benefits exceed the costs and 43 percent said OH&S is highly relevant to their business strategy. While 52 percent of large companies want to increase their investment in OH&S in the years to come, only 33 percent of small companies reported the same. This indicates that small companies might not be paying sufficient attention to occupational health and safety matters. This could be a risk, since small and medium sized companies are the predominant enterprise form in most regions.
CEO of DNV GL – Business Assurance, Luca Crisciotti, said anecdotal data from customer assessments shows that the investment required to renew facilities and machinery is one of the biggest concerns for small and medium sized companies.
“However, significant improvements can often be achieved through better processes and a stronger focus on behaviour-based safety,” Crisciotti said. “Going through a certification process is often the easiest way for SMEs to improve workplace safety without excessive costs.”