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Safety Byte: Exploring the Link Between Good Workplace Safety and Good Levels of Productivity

EHSQ Alliance Affiliate

Health and safety efforts shouldn't be perceived as a business cost that can be cut when the bottom line needs to be improved.

In this Safety Byte, Irwin & Colton's James Irwin meets with Peter McGettrick, managing director, Advisory, at Turner & Townsend, who tackles the challenges of productivity in the UK economy and how health and safety could be one solution. Turner & Townsend are a leading independent professional services company specialising in programme management, project management, cost and commercial management and consulting across the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors.

The video is available if you click the photo below. A full transcript of the interview is below. Topics discussed include:

  • What is the UK’s challenge?
  • How has Health & Safety impacted productivity?
  • How can health & safety improve productivity?
  • What is the return on investment?
  • Are there risks involved in improving productivity?

(This post was originally published as a Safety Byte by Irwin & Colton, an EHSQ Alliance Affiliate. Republished with permission.)

Q: Productivity – What is the UK’s challenge?

Productivity is a huge challenge to the UK, but it's also a challenge across the globe. There's an increasingly widening gap between the productivity of the UK and those leading advanced economies across the globe.

For instance, to match the U.S.'s levels of productivity, the UK would have to increase productivity by around 30%, which is a huge amount and a huge gap. So, we see there's a huge prize worth striving for to increase productivity in terms of the UK economy.

One of the ways of doing that is to improve workplace safety because there's a huge link between good workplace safety and good levels of productivity.

Q: How has Health & Safety impacted productivity?

The cost, overall, to the UK was £14.9 billion pounds in terms of new cases of workplace ill health and workplace injuries. In terms of working days lost in the UK, due to workplace injuries and ill health, was 31.2 million working days. It's just a huge cost to the UK.

There were 137 fatalities in the UK last year, which was a slight decrease compared to the previous year, but still a very high number. And more significantly, workplace stress became the number one cause in the UK of work-related illness, overtaking musculoskeletal disorders.

Q: How can health & safety improve productivity?

There's direct correlation between low levels of productivity and poor workplace safety. So, the benefits of good workplace health and safety includes low levels of accidents, incidents, low levels of absenteeism, and improved staff morale. The benefits of better workplace health and safety can really have a big impact on improving productivity, reducing production delays, and improving profits for the company.

Businesses can make the mistake of assuming that to improve productivity, you have to sacrifice other elements such as safety when, in fact, the opposite is true. Evidence suggests that good businesses that have good positive health and safety culture and are well-run are also very well-performing economically as well.

Q: What is the return on investment?

Well, recent studies show that it's a return on investment earned 1 to 10. For every pound that you spend, you get 10 pounds back, whether that's reducing costs or getting more out of people in the organization and more production.

It's a no-brainer, really, when it comes to businesses, that they should be investing in health and safety because it adds a huge business benefit and shouldn't be seen as a cost that can be cut when the bottom line needs to be improved.

Q: Are there risks involved in improving productivity?

The government launched a Construction 2025 report, which is an ambitious target to improve construction by 2025, reducing costs by 33 percent and reducing the time of the speed of delivery by 50 percent. The danger with that is that organizations will try and do the same, but quicker, and that can result in increased accidents rather than improving efficiency.

Organizations that improve the efficiency of operations, and doing that the right way, can have a huge impact on productivity and workplace safety as well. Organizations are turning more and more to lean management techniques in order to streamline processes and maximize efficiency. And it's the approach of the organizations need to take, need to be aware of, rather than just trying to push workers to do more for less. Because that will just have a negative impact on workplace safety.


Irwin & Colton was established with the primary goal of redefining recruitment across health, safety and environment. A work force which is safer, healthier and more sustainable is also one which is more productive, happier and motivated, driving business value.

Their mission is to put the right candidates in the right roles, to help clients recruit candidates who add value through their health, safety and environmental careers. Candidates who are well qualified and technically excellent, while at the same time able to create inspiring ideas, influence, engage and communicate effectively, to move an organisation beyond compliance and deliver positive change. We understand the combination of technical and non-technical skills can be critical to success and our delivery of these candidates, sets Irwin & Colton apart from our competition. We have over a decade of experience across health, safety and environment.

Our team have worked with a wide range of blue chip, FTSE 100 companies and leading consultancies to recruit their health, safety and environment teams. We place directors through to managers and advisor’s and provide both permanent and contract recruitment solutions.

For more information, please contact James Irwin, telephone: +44 (0)1923 432 632; email:



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July 02, 2019 @ 09:02 AM EDT Manufacturing Health & Safety

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