NEBOSH International Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety

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IA1 Principles of Health and Safety Management ISO 45001

1.6 - Effect of Size of Organisation on Accident and Incident Rates.

Accident and incident rates tend to be higher for smaller organisations when compared to larger organisations. There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Larger organisations may be more willing to accept their moral responsibility to protect their workers from harm as public opinion can have more far-reaching effects than that of a smaller business.

  • Smaller organisations may not be aware of their ethical responsibilities.

  • Larger organisations have more resources, particularly people and money, to invest in health and safety management.

  • Smaller organisations may be more inclined to take risks to secure contracts and compete with the pricing of larger organisations.

  • Larger companies have resources to employ and engage health and safety advisors and consultants.

  • Smaller organisations may have less access to internal health and safety expertise to advise them on how to manage risks. With fewer resources, they may have less options when engaging expertise from consultants.

  • Larger organisations can invest in proactive safeguards for protecting the health and safety of workers.

  • Smaller organisations have less financial resources and therefore less to invest in proactive safety procedures.

  • In smaller organisations some people might perform multiple roles within the organisation. The owner of a small company may have to fulfil all the duties of an operations manager, a purchasing manager, an administrative manager, and a health and safety manager. This means that they will not have a lot of time to dedicate to each responsibility, and they may lack the required expertise in some areas.

  • Smaller organisations tend to communicate more informally due to the close contact within the work environment. Therefore a lot of information is shared verbally. This is not a reliable way for all health and safety information and the message can get lost.

  • Larger organisations have more staff to engage and therefore written format is a way of ensuring all relevant people have been informed. It is traceable and when written it is less open to misinterpretation.

The results of these differences is that despite a growing awareness of health and safety requirements and duties, smaller organisations are more likely to be reactive rather than proactive in their approach to health and safety, mainly due to lack of resources. However, in most cases the level of impact of a health and safety breach may be magnified. If a worker in a small business is off work due to illness or injury, it is harder for a smaller organisation to cover their duties and continue as normal. Larger organisations have the ability to divide the workload across many more workers.

There is limited global data on the effect of size on accident rates, but in the UK, it has been determined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that the incidence rate for self-employed workers who belong to small businesses is over 2.5 times greater than the incidence rate of employed workers in larger organisations.