Health and safety is an area that Britain has become very adept at, to the degree where every aspect of our lives has some form of safety legislation interwoven into it. Since the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, Britain has become a very safe place to be. In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons for the heavy focus on health and safety in the UK.
In the United Kingdom, the primary care provider is the NHS, and as such it is the government – i.e. the taxpayer that pays for this care. When someone gets injured in the workplace, it is the government that has to pay for that person’s medical treatment and rehabilitation costs. If that person is no longer able to work, or if they are out of work for a prolonged period of time, it might well be the government that picks up the bill for looking after them – in terms of incapacity benefit and housing benefit.
While still a rich nation, the cost of incapacity benefit and housing benefit is very large, and so it makes sense, economically, to remove as many dangers (via health and safety regulations) from the workplace as possible, so that these large and long-running costs are less likely to occur.
To mention economic costs first is perhaps a little callous, while many people would say the crucial reason for having health and safety regulations is simply moral. Most would agree that it is morally correct to ensure that the work place is a safe place to be, as the effects on the workers themselves and indeed their families and friends is dramatic – especially if a major injury or even death occurs.
Another big reason for having a heavy focus on health and safety in the United Kingdom is that of Legal. The safety of the worker is tied up in law, so that if a company, for example, does not provide adequate protection for its employees, it might be open to legal proceedings. As we all know, if a company were to lose such a legal battle, it could spell the end of the company – in particular if the firm is of modest size.
These are three basic reasons why Britain has put such effort into its health and safety laws. Ultimately, they are designed to make living in this country a safer and more enjoyable place to be.