19th Jul, 2023 Read time 6 minutes

How Can Health and Safety Improve Sustainability in the Workplace?

Health, safety and wellbeing have never been more important in the workplace. And as H&S professionals in the field, we are all too aware of the human and financial costs of inadequate health and safety practices. For example, according to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2021/22 there were 565,000 working people who sustained an injury at work, while the most recent statistics indicate that workplace injuries from current working conditions cost an estimated £18.8 billion.

Beyond the moral and economic cases, health and safety has a crucial role to play in sustainability in the workplace. In an era where companies are under increasing pressure to reduce their environmental impact and maximise efficiency, optimising health, safety and wellbeing is key to building a sustainable business model. 

Through effective health and safety programs, workplaces can evolve into vibrant ecosystems. In these environments, employee motivation and resource preservation flourish, creating a synergy where productivity and sustainability successfully coexist.


Reducing Workplace Accidents and Injuries

Effective health and safety practices directly enhance sustainability through minimising waste from workplace accidents and hazards. By identifying and controlling risks, health and safety experts cut costs in wasted resources, pollution and inefficiency.

Conduct comprehensive risk assessments and audits to spot dangers that could result in spills, damage or disruption. Review incident reporting to find any correlation and to understand causes of waste and prevent future environmental impacts. 

Key performance indicators must capture costs of waste, pollution, rework and regulatory action. Set targets for improved resource efficiency and gauge effectiveness of interventions. Survey staff regularly on health, safety and sustainability to improve engagement with waste reduction.

Through expert health and safety practice, organisations benefit from lower costs due to damage, disposal fees, pollution fines and remediation. Productivity is optimised by avoiding disruption. Natural resources are safeguarded through preventing spills and contamination, and improving energy efficiency.


Optimising the Workplace Environment

Optimising the workplace environment is key to sustainability. Well-designed spaces with ample light, clean air, ideal temperatures and ergonomic layouts mean higher productivity, wellbeing and energy efficiency.

Furthermore, it’s important to monitor air quality, ventilation, lighting and layouts and address issues through policy reviews or redesign. Choose more sustainable building materials and less toxic equipment and furnishings whenever replacements are needed. Engage with general contractors to facilitate the implementation of these changes effectively.

Work with facilities management, principal designers and architects to improve spaces collaboratively while promoting biophilic elements like greenery, natural light and open space. Access to nature enhances creativity, cognitive function and wellbeing. Choosing eco-friendly materials, energy efficiency and waste reduction make spaces sustainable and appealing.


Minimising Exposure to Hazardous Materials

Minimising exposure to hazardous substances is key for sustainability in any organisation. By controlling risks from toxic materials and emissions, health and safety experts can significantly lower costs to the environment, health and productivity.

Review how hazardous substances are used and stored in your workplace. Conduct thorough risk assessments to determine adequate controls and emergency procedures. Consider substituting toxic chemicals for safer alternatives wherever possible. Strict permitting, ventilation, PPE and disposal rules must be enforced.

Set targets for reducing toxic materials and emissions year on year. Choose key performance indicators that capture sustainability metrics such as pollution levels, safety data sheets, and disposal fees.

Proper controls and management of hazardous substances benefit both people and planet through lowering rates of occupational disease, environmental damage, remediation and regulatory penalties. Productivity is also safeguarded by avoiding disruption. Collaboration is key so ensure to work with your procurement department to source more sustainable materials.


Promoting Wellness Programs

Flexible work boosts work-life balance and morale while decreasing environmental impacts. Allowing remote and hybrid options should be standard, along with promoting sustainable commutes. Everyone wins with a policy centring wellness and work-life harmony.

Managing health risks prevents loss in productivity, healthcare demand and costs to society. Partnerships with public health help create environments, support and resources for everyone to flourish and fulfill their potential. Why wait to support staff when small changes make a lasting difference?

As advocates for workplace health, keep making the case for wellness initiatives that inspire and equip. Highlight how expenses compare to potential loss in productivity, healthcare, environment and fines. Share progress and impacts to motivate more change. Together, we have the expertise and opportunity to embed sustainable principles.

Lowering Operational Costs

Effective health and safety practices directly lower utility bills and pollution through optimising resources and workplace environments. For example, improving natural lighting enhances wellbeing and reduces energy usage and costs.

Conduct energy audits and set efficiency targets to minimise waste. A prime example is switching from halogen lighting to LEDs, which can save up to 90% in energy costs while improving light quality. Monitor and optimise heating, cooling and ventilation systems for comfort and costs. Choose renewable energy sources where possible – onsite solar or wind generation and storage may have high upfront outlays but generate savings long-term.

Promote sustainable commuting and travel policies to cut emissions. Such as offering incentives for public transport, cycling and carpooling and educating staff on the most efficient options based on roles. 

Consider an integrated management system such as ISO 45001 which provides a framework to address wellbeing in supply chain and community for an overall enhanced sustainability score for your company.

Minimise single-use plastics and maximise recycling across the organisation, not only in your manufacturing and design but also throughout staff areas and behaviour. Sustainable waste and water management depend on strict protocols around pollution prevention and resource conservation. Consider a zero waste approach to embed circular economy principles.


Improve Sustainability through good Health and Safety

Workplace health and safety are key to sustainability. By optimising human and natural resources, costs are cut and potential maximised. Minimising accidents and building high-performing teams means resilience and shared value.

Improve spaces and policies for wellbeing and efficiency. An integrated approach, where environment, ethics and economics align, secures prosperity through partnership and progress. Continuous innovation depends on data-driven decisions.

Though challenges remain, the rewards are substantial. Leadership must invest in wellbeing, understanding sustainability depends on human capital and daily choices. Promote sustainable practices for motivation, productivity and preserved resources.

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