Norwich Union kick-starts safety campaign with the importance of risk assessment

Article date: 25 February 2008

Norwich Union is launching a 12-month campaign to help small businesses manage their health and safety issues.

"Simply Safety" is a series of one page guides aimed at a broad spectrum of trades including manufacturers, caterers, builders and retailers.

Each guide will be available to download at www.nurs.co.uk/ and has been designed as a reference tool or to display in workplaces.

The campaign begins by looking at the importance of risk assessments and outlines the key factors to helping keep staff and equipment safe.

"Often viewed as a box ticking exercise, the reality is quite the opposite," warns Phil Grace, Norwich Union's casualty risk manager. "Risk assessments are the cornerstone of managing risk in the workplace and the foundation on which employers can make the working environment safe for employees."

Whilst 63% of the 3,000 firms visited by NURS' risk advisors in 2007 were judged to have risk assessments that were "good" or "very good", more than a third (37%) had significant improvements to make to ensure the safety of staff, registering "poor" assessments.

"Businesses should be aware that a risk assessment is a means to an end and the first step in developing a safe working environment. Fitting guards on machinery, installing signage and staff training are all common actions that may need to be taken following a risk assessment."

However, Grace is keen to highlight a common misconception that only "risky" businesses should conduct a risk assessment. "The reality is that every business should be risk aware, regardless of what it does.

"Apart from the use of sharp knives, most people would not regard a butcher's shop as a "high risk" business. But this is not the case as proved by a recent accident involving a 15-year old boy who was working in a butcher's shop and lost part of his arm whilst operating a mincing machine in which a guard had been removed.

"As a result, the owners were fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs. The manager was also fined and had to pay costs.

"It is a stark warning that safety equipment, in this case the guard, is there for a reason and should be used. At the very least, the business should have had a warning sign by the machine to remind staff to check the guard was in operation and only allowed fully trained staff, over the age of 18, to operate it." advises Grace.

"A risk assessment survey is a simple process that offers businesses sound risk management advice and should be a fundamental part of a business philosophy that is taken seriously from the very top level of a company."

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For further information, please contact:
Jo Rosenberg 0161 919 8014/07973 143215 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors:

Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers.  FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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