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Societal Factors Which Influence Health and Safety Standards & Priorities

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Significant Factors

Economic Climate

The wealthiest countries of the world, where individuals have access to the basic necessities for life such as food, clean water, and shelter, have the funding to create and enforce good occupational health and safety (OHS) standards. In countries where individuals do not have these resources, it is inevitable that OHS is given a relatively lower priority.

Government Policy and Initiatives:

The government has a major influence on OHS policy through its ability to create legislation. In 2008 the UK government published a document entitled Working for a Healthier Tomorrow which made the following points:

  • Life expectancy in the UK is higher than ever, yet millions of working days are lost to work related
  • Evidence suggests that the working population is healthier than those who do not work.
  • Families without a working member are likely to suffer persistent low income and poverty.
  • Improving the health of the working age population is critically important for everyone to
    secure higher economic growth and its associated benets.

Level of Sickness Absence

In the UK sickness absence has gradually reduced but is still substantial with around 150 million days lost to sickness absence each year. Incapacity benefits (being replaced by Employment and Support Allowance) are paid to those who are unable to work because of ill-health or disability.

Societal Expectations of Equality

Health and safety standards and priorities can be determined by changes in societies’ expectations of equality.
In the UK the Equality Act 2010 aims to protect disabled people and prevent disability discrimination. The Equality Act provides legal rights for disabled people in the area of employment, requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate workers with disabilities. Consequently, acceptable access and egress to a workplace may need to include the provision of ramps and lifts in order to comply with these expectations of equality and the legal obligations associated with them.

Industry/Business Risk Prole

Not surprisingly, higher risk work activities require higher standards of control than those that create lower risks. For example, nuclear power stations each operate under a site license and demand very rigorous OHS standards.

Globalization of Business.

Many businesses of all sizes operate both nationally and internationally and resolving differences in culture and communication may create different expectations and standards.

Migrant Workers

As a result of more flexible immigration policies, the proportion of migrant workers in workforces is generally increasing and cultural and communication issues may influence OHS standards.

The principle of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is the term used to describe the voluntary actions that business can take, over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements, to address both its own competitive interests and the interests of the wider society.

Businesses should take account of their economic, social and environmental impacts, and act to address the key sustainable development challenges based on their core competencies wherever they operate – locally, regionally and internationally

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