For those working in the health and safety industry, vigilance is the key to success. Talk to specialist advisers and they will tell you that care is needed in everything that staff and contractors do and that constant reminders and regular training support that message.

In difficult economic times, there can be a temptation for employers to take their eye off the ball when it comes to safety, feeling that they have always been safe and that they always will be so they will concentrate on more pressing issues.

However, there are regular reminders that such an approach risks disaster and each error or oversight has a human cost. That is why good health and safety practice at work is crucial to any business, however large or small.

There are plenty of reasons why it matters, a major one of which is the need to meet legislative demands.

Recent years have seen health and safety legislation having a greater impact than ever before on daily business life, and the laws are not just relevant to the likes of factories and chemical plants but also to smaller businesses and places, ranging from schools to community-run leisure centres.

Barely a week goes by without a story in the national, local or specialist press about the consequences of a company or organisation failing in their heath and safety responsibilities. To counter the risks, companies are increasingly turning to outsourced experts.

Such specialists are able to take businesses through the increasingly complex health and safety legislation, ensuring that they meet the criteria relevant to their industries.

The effect of ignoring health and safety requirements in such areas can be long-lasting and devastating, not just for the person involved but for the employer, who may find themselves facing large compensation claims and having to deal with a damaged reputation.

Taken to the final extent, there may even be a prosecution with the company taken to court and hit with a hefty fine.

According to the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, good practice is also a way of ensuring that enterprises are successful and sustainable, and that economies thrive in the long term.

It said that good practice:

n enhances ‘brand image’ and ‘brand value’ as a socially responsible business

n reduces absences and increase the productivity of workers

n increases motivation and the commitment of employees to the business

n reduces business costs, such as insurance premiums, and business disruption caused by accidents

n enables enterprises to meet and exceed customer expectations, which could be crucial when pitching to retain contracts.

Get it wrong, and the opposite is true. For the individual, there are the costs of care and loss of earnings and for businesses, disruption, claims for damages, loss of goodwill and loss of confidence in management. All of which adds up to a strong reason for get health and safety right from the start.