Ask a variety of people to comment about Health and Safety and you’ll be likely to get a mixture of those who (rightly) live and breathe it, and those who treat it as a necessary evil. By Bevin Hill, Business Development Manager, RS Blastech

Even among those who live and breathe it, when it comes to Health and Safety most of what will be commented on is often solely the safety aspect; ‘health’ often becomes the poor cousin of ‘safety’.
For those who simply comply with health and safety regulations and recommendations, it is often because the products they are asked to use are cumbersome, uncomfortable, or make the job in hand more difficult than it could be, or used to be.
Alternatively, it may be that the processes involved in compliance are complex and long-winded by comparison with ‘how we used to do it’.
This kind of situation presents difficulties for every company, and is one that can lead to operatives taking short cuts in the interests of doing the job faster, or adapting equipment to ‘speed things up’.
Sadly, we’ve probably all seen, at some time in our careers, the adverse outcomes of shortcuts, and we’ve all seen people who remembered safety, but forgot about long-term health.
Much of the problem can be demonstrated as coming down to the very word that many in H&S use every day; compliance.
The cost of compliance
Sometimes to simply ‘comply’ is the easiest way to address a Health or Safety issue, and nobody is suggesting that we shouldn’t comply.
However, what if rather than merely complying, we were to spend extra time, and possibly a modest extra budget in researching a solution that has productivity benefits for our companies?
What if when we were considering safety, we were to spend an equal amount of time considering health?
What if when we were giving this amount of consideration to health, we were also considering both long-term health and occupational health – ie current health? The questions that need to be asked are: Is it comfortable to use? Have frustrations been removed? Is there a lightweight option? Is there enough light there? Are any lenses or screens wide enough? Is there good peripheral vision? Is it easy to communicate instantly with colleagues?
That may be a lot of ‘what ifs’ – but what if they were all properly consulted on, and addressed one by one?
Productivity Gains
The great news for operatives is that if these ‘what ifs’ were to be addressed properly, it’s guaranteed that their day to day working lives could be so much more enjoyable, reducing physical and colleague tension and improving output and job satisfaction.
This is where heads of department, business owners and shareholders come in; because a happy operative is a productive operative. And as the accountants will tell you, additional productivity of this kind is the best kind, because it has virtually zero extra cost – in other words it is all profit.
It is at this point that the whole idea of not just simply being compliant – and of spending as much time on health as you do on safety – all starts to make so much sense. It makes sense from an operator perspective – happy, healthy, productive, satisfied, and it makes sense from an accounting point of view – productivity, viability, profitability.
Lowest cost or best value?
One last argument standing in the way of operating in this fashion is cost.
Businesses in the last ten years have concentrated on driving down costs like never before. But what is lowest cost? Is it really the cheapest price? Of course it’s not, but with targets to meet and investors to satisfy, buyers often either become confused as to the difference between cost and value, or are put in a position where they have to go with lowest cost providing it is ‘compliant’ – that word again!
What is needed is a joined up strategy – a strategy where investors and business owners empower buyers to form a judgement on overall cost to the company – not simply the initial cost of the item in question.
Will it make the boat go faster?
Buyers should not necessarily be asking themselves ‘how much does it cost’, but ‘will it make the boat go faster’?
To give an example; there are many items that are in the region of £200 and are compliant, but for £250 a buyer can obtain a much superior product – an extra £50, which is 25% more than the compliant product. This item is then used by an operative for say, two years; let’s assume that the operative is costed in the factory at £40 per hour including overheads.
Let’s also assume that the operative works forty hours per week and is only 1% more efficient with the superior item of work or protection – £40 at 1% is 40 pence per hour cost saving. In a week, that’s £16 additional revenue per operative, and in two weeks its £32. In two years, that is £1,536 return on an investment of £50 – on an item worth only £250, and this is assuming only a 1% productivity increase!
In reality, returns could be far larger than this, and even hugely successful bankers and investors go after much smaller returns.
Analyse, strategise, communicate
So take a look around your organisation; what item of PPE, what item of machinery, and what item of work could you analyse from not just a safety, but a health perspective? Then look out there in the marketplace and study the most expensive product out there, analyse what it does, and work out why is it more expensive. How could your company benefit from its added value?
In analysing things thoroughly and consistently, and in communicating this concept effectively to everyone within the company, you will build a culture of continuous improvement, a culture of satisfied, healthy and productive working, and very importantly, you will help to increase company profitability. Try it – it works!
At RS Blastech we have some examples of products that are the fruits of the above philosophy. These include the RPB Nova 3 Blast Helmet, which can be combined with the RPB L4 900 Lumen Blast Helmet Light, the lightweight RPB PAPR breathing air supply unit, RPB GX4 24/7 Breathing Air monitor and the Nova Talk Helmet Communication System. RS Blastech guarantees that these products improve operator Health, operator Safety
and Operator Productivity.