0 Shopping Cart

Ethics and Morals in Health and Safety: A Guide for Businesses

A Guide To Navigating Ethics and Morals in Health and Safety

Imagine standing at the supermarket checkout, and in an instant, someone has taken your wallet or purse. Naturally, you are upset. Luckily the supermarket has CCTV, they have the person’s face and their car registration, they are soon apprehended, and your possessions are returned.

Now imagine that you visit a hotel and a fire alarm sounds during the evening, but you cannot open the fire doors as someone has blocked them. It turns out to be a false alarm but scares you nonetheless. Later you discover that this hotel has breached regulations several times.

What if your employer consistently breaches regulations? Or the landlord of your building?

The fact is it doesn’t matter where or what the breach is. What matters is the morals and ethics of the situation and what the potential outcome might be. You only have to look at the HSE website to see the number and type of prosecutions demonstrating how ‘easy’ it is to breach the regulations.

The Grenfell disaster is another case that highlights the morals and ethics in health and safety. The School of the Built Environment and Architecture produced a conference paper to examine the ethical consequences of the Grenfell Tower Fire. You can read it here. The FT calls it the shallowness of business ethics. Dame Judith Hackitt was quoted in Construction News as “shocked and appalled at an industry that doesn’t recognise its moral responsibility to deliver safe buildings”.

Navigating the complex landscape of ethics and morals in the UK Health and Safety is, without a doubt, challenging. The backdrop of health and safety is ever-changing, with a multitude of obligations that business owners must consider. Ensuring the safety of workers (and others) is not only an ethical and moral responsibility but also a legal requirement.

This article will explore the ethical and moral considerations businesses must consider.

Ethics in Health and Safety

The importance of ethics in Health and Safety

Ethics is an essential component of UK health and safety. Health and safety policies and procedures must be based on ethical principles to ensure no one is exposed to unnecessary risks. Ethical principles can guide businesses in creating and maintaining a safe working environment for anyone under their responsibility or care.

An ethical approach to health and safety has numerous benefits. Let’s look at the workplace, for example. It helps to create a positive workplace culture that demonstrates that they value the health and well-being of employees. This can result in increased job satisfaction and morale and improved retention rates, as employees are likelier to stay with an employer committed to their health and safety.

Additionally, employers can build trust with their workers by promoting ethical principles. Employees who feel that their employer is genuinely concerned for their well-being are more likely to have a positive attitude towards their work and be more engaged in their job. This can result in increased productivity and improved quality of work, as employees are more motivated and committed to their work.

Furthermore, focusing on health and safety ethics can also help reduce workplace accidents and injuries. By identifying and addressing potential hazards in the workplace, employers can create a safe working environment that reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. This can result in reduced absenteeism, as well as decreased costs associated with worker’s compensation claims and lost productivity due to injuries.

By the same token, by promoting ethical principles, landlords can build trust with their tenants and demonstrate their commitment to providing a safe and healthy living environment.

Focusing on health and safety ethics can also help landlords reduce the risk of accidents and injuries in their buildings. This includes regular property inspections, identifying potential hazards, and promptly addressing safety concerns. This approach to health and safety can also have financial benefits for landlords. By reducing the risk of accidents and injuries, landlords can decrease their liability and lower their insurance costs. In addition, they can improve tenant retention rates and attract new tenants by demonstrating a commitment to providing a safe and healthy living environment.

Problems associated with not following an ethical approach

Not following an ethical approach to health and safety can have serious financial, legal, and brand implications. For example:

Financial implications

  • Increased costs associated with accidents and injuries include compensation claims, medical expenses, and lost productivity.
  • Increased insurance premiums and potential loss of coverage due to a high number of accidents.
  • Fines and penalties for violating health and safety regulations.

Legal implications

  • Potential lawsuits and legal action injured due to unsafe conditions.
  • Potential criminal charges if a business knowingly violates health and safety regulations and puts people at risk.
  • Potential damage to the company’s reputation and brand can result in decreased sales and loss of customers.

Brand implications

  • Negative publicity and damage to the company’s reputation can lead to a loss of consumer trust and loyalty.
  • Difficulty attracting and retaining top talent, as employees are more likely to seek employment with companies that demonstrate a commitment to ethical practices.
  • Difficulty partnering with other companies or securing contracts, as potential partners and clients may be wary of working with a company with a poor health and safety reputation.

This is why at Ligtas that we look to recruit people who fully understand this, and these areas align with their values.

Ethical Principles in Health and Safety

Now for the more technical aspects of ethical principles relevant to health and safety. These include non-maleficence, beneficence, autonomy, fidelity and justice.

Non-maleficence - do no harm

Non-maleficence is the principle of doing no harm. In health and safety, this means that businesses must take steps to prevent harm from occurring. Businesses that fail to consider this principle run the risk of injuring their employees or residents, which can lead to lawsuits and reputational damage. On the other hand, by prioritising non-maleficence, a business can create safer environments that protect and promotes well-being.

Beneficence - act in the best interests

This means that businesses must take steps to protect the people they are responsible for from harm. This could include providing protective equipment, training, or appropriate resources to prevent accidents or injuries.

In health and safety, this means that businesses should take actions that benefit the people they are responsible for. For example, by considering the well-being of employees, employers can increase productivity and reduce absenteeism, leading to a more efficient and profitable business. Failing to consider beneficence can lead to a disengaged and unproductive workforce, negatively impacting a business’s bottom line.

Autonomy - the right to make decisions

Autonomy is the principle of respecting an individual’s right to make their own decisions. In health and safety, this means that, for example, employers should consult their employees on matters that affect their safety and well-being. By involving employees in decision-making processes, employers can build trust and loyalty, leading to a more engaged and committed workforce. Ignoring autonomy can lead to mistrust and resentment among employees, negatively impacting morale and productivity.

Fidelity - maintain trust in relationships

Fidelity is the principle of keeping promises and being trustworthy. In health and safety, this means that businesses should follow through on their commitments. Businesses that fail to keep their promises can damage their reputation and lose trust. By prioritising fidelity, businesses can build a positive and trustworthy reputation.

Justice - fair and equitable

Justice is the principle of treating people fairly and equitably. In health and safety, this means that, for example, employers should ensure that all employees are treated equally regarding matters of safety and well-being. Employers who fail to consider justice can lead to a discriminatory workplace, leading to legal action and reputational damage. By prioritising justice, employers can create a diverse and inclusive workplace that promotes equality and fairness.

Morals in Health and Safety

The importance of morals in Health and Safety

Morals are also an essential consideration in the health and safety arena. Businesses are morally obligated to ensure the safety of anyone they are responsible for. This obligation extends beyond legal requirements and includes a commitment to protecting the well-being of employees, tenants, customers, or any other individuals for whom the organisation has responsibility.

While legal requirements provide a framework for ensuring health and safety in the workplace or residential building, these standards may not always be sufficient to protect individuals fully. Therefore, businesses have a moral obligation to go beyond these legal requirements and take additional measures to ensure the safety of those they are responsible for. As Ligtas would say – do more than just tick boxes.

For example, a landlord may be legally required to install smoke detectors in each apartment unit, but they also have a moral obligation to ensure that these devices are regularly maintained and replaced when necessary. Similarly, an employer may be legally required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees working in hazardous conditions, but they also have a moral obligation to train their employees on proper PPE use and ensure that the equipment provided is of high quality.

Moral considerations in Health and Safety

Some relevant moral considerations in health and safety include a duty of care and fairness.

Duty of care

Businesses have a moral obligation to ensure the safety of anyone they are responsible for. This duty of care includes, for example, providing appropriate training, equipment, and resources to ensure employees can perform their jobs safely. In addition, businesses must ensure that they take all necessary steps to protect their workers’ safety, even if it means going beyond legal requirements. A great example is employers who invest in induction programs and carry them out.


Businesses have a moral obligation to treat everyone fairly. This includes ensuring people are not exposed to unnecessary risks and are adequately compensated for any risks they take.


Moral luck

Moral luck is an interesting philosophical concept that raises questions about the relationship between moral responsibility and the outcomes of actions. It suggests that even if we make the best moral and ethical choices, the consequences of our actions may still be affected by factors outside of our control, such as luck or chance.

For instance, a construction company hires contractors to build or renovate an office building. The construction company may take all necessary precautions to ensure the building is structurally sound and meets all safety regulations. However, if an unforeseen event occurs during the construction process and causes damage to the building, the construction company may be held responsible for the damages, even though they had no control over the disaster.


Businesses can and should create a culture that prioritises transparency, open communication, and continuous improvement to foster ethical environments.

The importance of ethical decision-making during crises

During a crisis, ethical decision-making can become even more challenging. Businesses can prepare by establishing clear ethical guidelines and decision-making frameworks to guide their response to crises, ensuring that they act ethically and responsibly even in high-pressure situations.

During a crisis, such as a natural disaster, a pandemic, or a workplace accident, the pressure on businesses to make decisions quickly and effectively can be immense. This pressure can make it difficult to maintain an ethical approach to decision-making. However, ethical considerations are particularly important during a crisis, as the consequences of decisions can have far-reaching impacts.

We would advise developing clear ethical guidelines and decision-making frameworks that can be applied in a crisis scenario.

Establishing a code of conduct

A code of conduct outlines the business’s values and ethical standards. It provides everyone with guidance on how to behave in different situations. This can help to create a shared understanding of what constitutes ethical behaviour.

Providing ethics training

Businesses can train employees on ethical decision-making and the business code of conduct. This can help employees to recognise ethical dilemmas and make informed decisions that align with their values.

Providing a range of health and safety training

It makes sense to ensure that your workforce is well-trained in all areas of health and safety. This ensures that they can recognise risk and act.

Encouraging open communication

Businesses can create an environment where employees feel comfortable raising concerns about ethical issues. This can be achieved through regular meetings, anonymous reporting mechanisms, and a culture that values transparency and honesty.

Regular Risk Assessments

Conducting risk assessments is essential in creating a safe environment. Businesses must assess the risks that the people in their care may face and take steps to mitigate them. Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.

Continuous improvement

Businesses can encourage continuous improvement by regularly evaluating and updating their policies and practices related to health and safety. This can help identify improvement areas and ensure the business strives to be more ethical and accountable.

Call to Action

Businesses must take their ethical and moral obligations seriously in the UK health and safety arena. It is not only a legal requirement but also a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of all. At Ligtas, our advice is as follows:

  • Go beyond compliance and just ticking boxes
  • Prevention is better than cure
  • If in doubt, ask

In Conclusion

Ethics and morals play a crucial role in the UK health and safety arena. Businesses must consider ethical and moral considerations when developing health and safety policies and procedures. By doing so, they can ensure that no one is exposed to unnecessary risks and that they are treated fairly. We encourage you to conduct regular risk assessments, provide training and resources, and encourage open communication to create safer environments.

Where do you want to go today?