Public v Private sector –Who takes health & safety more seriously?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Do the public and private sectors differ in how much importance they place on health and safety? Does one regard it as more significant than the other? In this week’s blog, we look at how the two compare as well as what should be the priority going forward.


There has always been a bit of rivalry between the public and private sectors however when it comes to health and safety who comes out on top?

Health and safety, in general, has improved significantly in the UK over the years but that doesn’t mean that it is perfect. There is still work to be done to enhance safety standards in all sectors from dealing with mental health in a better way (Are SMEs doing enough to tackle poor mental health at work?) to ensuring safety on construction sites (What are the main health and safety risks in the construction industry?)

In this weeks’ blog, we are going to look at the results from two surveys – The Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 and a survey undertaken by SGS, an international testing and certification company – to see what sector is doing more for health and safety.

What do the statistics tell us?

The survey by SGS involved 289 individuals from 263 organisations and found that the private sector is leading the way when it comes to making health and safety a priority.

54% of private sector companies said that they carry out a health and safety inspection on a monthly basis and this percentage dropped to just 27% for the public sector. Furthermore, only 68% of public sector employees said that their organisation saw health and safety as a high priority compared to 80% of private sector workers.

It is clear from first glance that the private sector seems to be doing more to prioritise health and safety in the workplace but what about different occupations?

What professions have the most stress?

When it comes to stress, some jobs are better than others not only for dealing with workplace stress but having lower rates of poor mental health in general.

For example, within the legal and professional services industry, 82% of respondents said that there has been an increase in poor mental health from the year before and this was 78% for technology, 62% finance and 50% for the manufacturing sector.

We looked previously at the fact that sick leave has fallen over the last 10 years however it is important to point out that this doesn’t tell the full story. More employees are now likely to battle through an illness than call in sick which poses its own health and safety problems.

Priorities for both sectors going forward

At first glance, the research shows that the private sector is placing a higher emphasis on health and safety than the public sector although it is not true of all occupations. Many private sector employees are seeing a big rise in the amount of stress being reported from the previous year.

There is still much work to be done particularly in relation to poor mental health in the workplace and the onus here is on both sectors to improve their handling of conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety.

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