Society pays for companies' deadly behaviour

Report reveals health & safety "cost shifting" by businesses

19.05.2009

A leading lawyer has urged companies to place health and safety higher on their agenda after a report concluded that dangerous conditions are persisting in Britain's workplaces because firms only pay a small fraction of the costs of occupational injuries and diseases.

The report by Stirling University's Professor Rory O'Neill, called Who pays? You do, concluded that thousands of lives each year could be saved if businesses were prevented from "cost shifting" onto individuals and society the real bill for work-related ill-health.

Professor O'Neill, of the university's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, said: "The business lobby bleats continually about the burden of health and safety regulation, but the burden of lax workplace safety standards is carried almost entirely by sick and injured workers, bereaved families and the public purse."

David Urpeth, National Head of Workplace Injuries at leading law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "Every single worker has a right to work in conditions which are safe and it's not acceptable for any company to claim that health and safety is not important.

"There are of course many businesses who take the safety of staff seriously but it's time that all businesses made sure health and safety was right at the top of their agenda.

"Some business may argue that health and safety is a price they would rather not have to pay but let's remember the victims here. The price paid by workers whose careers have been ended by serious injury and now need a lifetime of care, or by the families of workers who have lost a loved one, is far greater."