Cut costs, not corners: ten top tips

At a time when rising inflation and energy costs continue to bite, this article offers ten ways of cutting #healthandsafety spending without compromising safety.

As inflation, energy and petrol prices hit record highs, businesses everywhere are looking for ways of reducing their overheads.

When it comes to rationalising the costs associated with health & safety activities, organisations must tread carefully. The obvious cost-cutting measures - lay-offs, pay freezes, smaller training budgets, reduced spending on equipment - might deliver short-term savings but can be more harmful than beneficial to profitability in the long run. And there’s no question that such measures will weaken a company’s health & safety systems, increasing the risk of a serious breach that would wipe out any savings instantly. 

A better approach is to focus on measures that will increase efficiency or add value in some way. Negotiating more favourable rates with suppliers; automating and digitising manual processes; embracing tech and innovation; consolidating and integrating IT systems and platforms. 

By taking a smarter approach to cost rationalisation, businesses can improve their health & safety systems and gain a competitive edge simultaneously. 

With that in mind, here are ten tips for cutting health & safety costs without cutting corners:

1. Go paperless

How much does your health & safety team spend each year on paper, printer ink, printer maintenance and postage? The costs quickly add up if you regularly produce policies, risk assessments, reports, and other paper-based documents. Then there are the costs of physical file storage, security, shredding and disposal of all that paper waste. Going paperless will eliminate most of these.

2. Digitise your department

Digitalising health & safety processes increases productivity by streamlining workflows. As a starting point, several technologies can assist with transitioning to a digital workplace, from eSignature technology to content sharing and collaboration software, team collaboration software and ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems.  

3. Consolidate stand-alone software tools

Once you have moved your health & safety systems online, reviewing your software usage is next. How many software tools does your team use daily - three, four, five? Many companies use one system for incident management, another for audits & inspections and yet another for safety data management. Could these be consolidated into one software platform? If so, not only would this reduce subscription costs, but it would also increase user efficiency.

4. Streamline reporting

Often, employees are put off reporting accidents or issues due to excessive paperwork or duplication of systems. Streamline your process into one system for reporting issues and encourage participation by making your reporting system as quick and easy to use as possible. You will reap dividends through efficiency gains and more accurate and reliable reporting of incidents and near misses.

5. Deliver risk assessments online

Traditionally, the findings of risk assessments have always been presented in person - a significant drain on time and resources. People would typically stand in a huddle to listen and sign printed copies. Thanks to the advent of app and collaboration technology, risk assessment findings can be delivered via Zoom/Teams, and documentation can be read and signed via an app. 

6. Embrace app technology

There are many examples of how app technology can transform health & safety processes and systems. Pre-use equipment inspections can be carried out via an app that guides the user through each step and serves as documented proof of compliance. Another example is an app to check routes for overhanging tree branches; a geolocate function identifies and takes images of any potentially dangerous trees so that a tree surgeon can be notified to remove them. 

Many organisations take advantage of office apps but fail to extend this to field workers, requiring them to fill out and submit paper forms for quality checks and maintenance inspections. 

Field workers can also be equipped with apps that can capture data remotely, bypassing paper forms and manual processes. 

7. Move to online training

Considerable savings can be made by switching to online training, but e-learning should be used selectively. When it comes to safety training, in particular, the consequences of not getting the messages across are enormous and potentially life-threatening - the following day, for example, that attendee might be going onto a construction site or carrying out a pre-use inspection on a forklift truck for the first time. As a general guide, if the training requires audience interaction in a classroom environment, it is better delivered in person.

8. Offset training costs against tax

Did you know that your business can offset the costs of training courses against tax? These kinds of training courses are tax-deductible expenses. So, as well as upskilling employees and creating a safer environment, health & safety courses have financial benefits.

9. Reduce your insurance premium

Every business that employs workers must have at least £5 million in employers’ liability Insurance to cover claims of negligence made by employees who suffer injury or ill health due to their work. The size of your premium is influenced by the quality of your health & safety risk management system. Implementing a more robust system will not only reduce your premiums in the short term but may also lead to a reduction in future claims - which will mean lower premiums.

10. Let the machines take over

As manual labour becomes an increasingly scarce commodity, the case for automation of many manual processes is becoming very compelling - and the payback period for such projects is becoming ever shorter. Front of the queue for automation are repetitive tasks involving heavy lifting; machines don’t get hurt or tired, and they don’t suffer from repetitive strain injuries.

The bottom line: take a long view

Cutting corners for the sake of a few pounds can end up costing you more time and money in the long run. Cost-cutting exercises might deliver short-term savings, but this will invariably be detrimental to long-term health & safety and profitability. A smarter approach requires a readiness to embrace tech, invest in innovation and take a long view. But your health & safety operation will emerge leaner, more efficient and competitive. 

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