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A 50% reduction in sickness absences

‘The benefits to our business of revolutionising our health and safety systems and placing it at the heart of what we do are very extensive. We now have higher staff morale and lower sickness. It also significantly helps in retaining existing customers and sets us apart when winning new business, helping the company to expand.’

John Purnell, Regional Director (and Health and Safety Officer)

In 2002, a new owner took over Cougar Automation and brought with him a fresh mindset and approach to health and safety. Previously, Cougar’s safety record appeared to be okay; but while there had been no reportable incidences, there were many near misses and a high rate of workplace stress. Changes were needed to improve performance, reduce costs, and prevent the unthinkable from occurring.

As in many cases when health and safety improvements are made, the benefits were wide ranging and built upon each other, all working to lift the company’s bottom line.


Taking action

As the first step of the new safety initiative, the Regional Manager became responsible for health and safety training, demonstrating the new focus to the workforce. The Operations Director completed a health and safety course and set about overhauling systems and procedures.
He introduced:

  • Incident reporting for near misses
  • In-house training courses
  • A stress initiative and awareness programme
  • Site and electrical health and safety competence tests, which all employees have to pass before they can go on site
  • Active monitoring of health and safety compliance and performance, including monthly inspections and an annual audit by insurers


Bringing safety to the heart of the company

By bringing health and safety expertise in-house, Cougar reduced their overhead costs and produced a user-friendly system tailored specifically to their business. This personalised system and the involvement of management demonstrated to the Cougar team that the directors believed in keeping them healthy and safe and were not just paying lip service to legal requirements.

Company morale vastly improved as a result. Employees now believe that issues raised by them will be acted upon and investigated. Staff are empowered to act on health and safety concerns. The ongoing training programmes have raised employee awareness and knowledge of health and safety. They now take responsibility and are accountable for their own and colleagues’ actions. The resulting cost savings and improved health and safety have helped to secure the long term financial viability of the company.
In-house safety improvements included:

  • A health, safety and welfare staff noticeboard
  • Quarterly health and safety officer and manager meetings
  • Quarterly meetings of the employee safety committee
  • Health and safety discussions at company-wide, two-monthly Compass meetings
  • Posters around the office, particularly on entry and exit doors
  • A user-friendly and thorough intranet site including all company health and safety documents
  • One-to-one and team meetings
  • Internal training
  • Competency assessments
  • Declaration forms


Safety pays

The financial benefits to Cougar included:

  • A substantial reduction in average absence rates from 11.9 days per employee (2002) to 5.2 days per employee (2005)
  • Significant savings from bringing health and safety training in-house and removing the need for external consultants
  • Excellent staff retention and a related reduction in the cost of recruitment and training
  • Reduction in stress levels and a corresponding rise in employee productivity

This range of cost benefits came at a relatively small price: the time and initial training are estimated to have cost just $3,500.