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Good OSH is good for business

In tough economic times, it’s important to remember that poor workplace safety and health costs money. What’s more, case studies show that good OSH management in a business is linked to improved performance and profitability.

The big picture

Everyone from individual workers to national health systems loses out when OSH is neglected. But this means that everyone can benefit from better policies and practices.

Countries with poor workplace safety and health systems use valuable resources dealing with avoidable injuries and illnesses. A strong national strategy leads to numerous benefits, such as:

  • improved productivity through less sickness absence
  • cutting healthcare costs
  • keeping older workers in employment
  • stimulating more efficient working methods and technologies
  • reducing the number of people who have to cut their hours to care for a family member

Getting a clearer view

It’s vital that policy-makers understand the costs of poor or non-existent OSH. Some are obvious — lost working days and compensation payments, for example. Some, though, are harder to estimate, such as the cost for human suffering. The economic effects on society of workplace accidents and work-related injuries can be hidden, like lower staff morale or lost clients and contracts.

Estimates vary — which is one reason why more research is needed — but typically, for most countries, the costs of accidents at work and occupational ill health range from 2.6% to 3.8% of GDP.

EU-OSHA wants policy-makers to have access to the most accurate figures possible. That’s why we have published a report comparing the best national studies on the costs of poor OSH. The report is the starting point for a large-scale project on estimating the costs of poor OSH across Europe.

The benefits for business

Not only does poor safety and health cost companies money, but good OSH pays dividends. Business with higher safety and health standards are more successful and more sustainable.

Studies estimate that for every euro invested in OSH, there is a return of 2.2 euros and that the cost–benefit ratio of improving safety and health is favourable.

The economic advantages of good OSH for businesses large and small are significant. To give just a few examples, good workplace safety and health:

  • improves workers’ productivity
  • cuts down on absenteeism
  • reduces compensation payments
  • meets the requirements of public and private sector contractors

Taking action could bring significant benefits to your business. Find out more about implementing improvements and managing risks here.

Economic incentives

Across Europe, schemes have been put in place to reward organisations financially for having safe and healthy workplaces. These include:

  • lower insurance premiums
  • tax breaks
  • state subsidies and grants

One example is the German butchery sector. Participating companies had their premiums reduced if they promoted safety, for example by buying safety knives or giving safety training to drivers.

The scheme resulted in:

  • 1 000 fewer reportable accidents per year for the sector in Germany
  • a reduction in costs valued at 40 million euros in six years
  • a saving of 4.81 euros for every euro invested

For insurers, offering such schemes can help to reduce the number, severity and cost of claims.

Find out more about economic incentives and how they can be introduced: