Society exerts pressure through three overlapping and interacting spheres of influence: moral, legal and financial.
Morals are the codes of conduct, or rules of behaviour imposed by a society regarding what is right and wrong.
For people to be killed, or seriously injured, or to suffer illness as a consequence of work is clearly wrong.
Although, in the UK there are generally good standards of workplace health and safety a lot of harm is still caused each year.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes annual statistics of reported cases of workplace injury and illness. As can be seen the numbers of cases of occupational illness is significantly higher than the numbers of injuries.
|Injury/Illness Type||Reported numbers 2013/14|
|Notified non-fatal injuries to employees||71,062|
|Musculoskeletal disorders||0.5 million|
|Stress, depression and anxiety||0.6 million|
|Work-related ill-health||1.4 million|
Societal Expectations of Good Standards of Health and Safety
Societal expectation changes with the times. The expectations of workplace standards in the UK in the 21st century are much higher than they would have been in the 1950s, and much higher again than they would have been in 1819 when the Cotton Mills Act stopped children under 9 years of age from working in cotton mills and limited those under 16 years of age to a maximum 16 hour shift per day.
For more than two hundred years, worker’s groups in the UK have organised themselves and campaigned for better working conditions and treatment from their employers. More enlightened, philanthropic employers also helped to improve conditions over time as did the introduction of legislation including a number of Factories Acts between 1833 and 1961.
Better education has led to a more informed workforce with access to information through 24-hour news media and the internet.
In developing nations which are undergoing their own industrial revolutions, standards are like they were in Victorian Britain and expectations are understandably much lower.