This study intends to reveal the relationship between health & safety standards in organisation & employee productivity


Introduction to the topic

Increasing competitiveness in today’s economy has increased the relevance of competitive differentiation and the importance that organisations place on their biggest asset ‘Human resources’ for ensuring high productivity, profits and growth. Health and safety of employees is one of the biggest determinants of employee satisfaction and thereby their productivity Hughes and Ferrett (2011). According to Walters (2010) employee productivity constitutes the measure of workforce efficiency and output competencies. Increased employee productivity provides organizations elevated market performance and reputation. The present study intends to review the role of health and safety standards in the UK retail sector in facilitating improved productivity. The outcomes of this research would reveal how important health and safety standards are for increasing employee productivity which in turn would facilitate informed managerial decision making in matters relating to health and safety standards in organizations.

Firstly, this introductory chapter of the study jots down the research and organisational context that have caused to initiate the study. Secondly, it discusses the rationale behind the selection of this topic and its significance to the UK retail industry and Primark Retail stores. Finally, through this chapter, the researcher defines the research aims and objectives which will form the backbone of the study and then frames questions which will be explored and investigated in to for deriving sensible conclusions.

Research context 

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), each year around 2.2 million people globally die owing to occupational hazards, around 270 million suffer serious injuries and from work-related causes, more than 160 million people fall ill. Health and safety refers to the avoidance of accidents, prevention of diseases and ensuring the overall well-being of an employee/worker (Reese, 2015). As Hughes and Ferrett (2011) opine, safety and protection systems of an organization enhance the satisfaction and self-assurance of an employee to efficiently perform in a firm. This directly impacts the employee productivity and hence preserving effective health and safety measures is an inevitable process for an organization. Productivity is defined as an expression of effective and efficient utilisation of an organisation’s resources with an aim of contributing towards creating and adding value for innovation and growth (Gandy et al, 2014).

The link between health and safety standards and employee productivity was first established in scientific management which outlined that safe working conditions were essential for maximising employee productivity (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). Cudjoe (2011) emphasised that chemical, physical, biological or psychological hazards from the workplace conditions or probability of suffering them creates extreme de-motivation in employees leading to a lower performance. Though the understanding of the nuanced relationship between health and safety standards and employee productivity has improved significantly over the years, modern day organizations have still failed to implement effective standards in health and safety (Laberge et al., 2014). The recent reports of unhealthy work environment in Amazon (Kantor and Streitfeld, 2015) and Foxconn (Bilton, 2014) indicate that there is an impending need to review and establish how health and safety standards influence employee productivity. 

Organisational context

Primark Retail is a global giant Irish clothing retailer operating at 325 locations in 11 countries and well-established in the UK retail market employing around 68,000 individuals. Known for its high quality products at reasonable prices, Primark has also gained global public notice for its worst and unethical working practices. Majority of the manufacturing and supply units for procurement at Primark retail are garment and allied accessory manufacturers in developing and underdeveloped countries like India, Bangladesh and China (Project Just, 2016). Reports on the clothing retailer with regards to its illegal minimum wage, illegal immigrant labour, poor working conditions in factories, labour rights issues in their supply chains etc (Barua and Ansary, 2016) have raised huge criticism and affected customers, public as well as its employees to a huge extent indicating a deprived organizational scenario. Apart from the issues in supply chain, the retail giant has also been criticised widely for the unhealthy workplace practices that the employees have to go through like continuous working hours, wages lower than the national standards, violence and harassment, rude management behaviour and improper health measures for staff at Primark’s retail stores (Vergnault, 2016). 

Pagnamenta’s (2013) reports on factory collapse of Primark at Bangladesh resulting in demise of numerous employees and harmful working conditions and unhealthy employee treatment at its factories to increase organizational profits indicate the inefficient health and safety measures of Primark. Moreover Industriall’s (2015) report on garment factory collapse at Lahore, which was one of the major production units of Primark also indicates the organizations’ inattentiveness towards ensuring good working conditions for employees. These issues have resulted in increased dissatisfaction among employees resulting in poor performance and productivity (Pursglove, 2013). Moreover the ‘cry for help’ labels that were found by customers in many of the garments sewn at the supply chain factories evoked a sense of shock and contempt in the public for the brand (Hoskins, 2014). As reviewed from Tripadvisor (2015), the instances of poor customer service provided by Primark’s workforce also indicate the ineffective employee productivity. Thus considering these facts, researcher intends to determine the association of health and safety measures on employee productivity with Primark’s business scenario and to make recommendations to improve the situation. 

Research Rationale

Maintaining effectual practices on health and safety and effectively administering the measures is inevitable for satisfying employees and developing a robust working environment in an organisation (Gayathiri et. al., 2013). The importance of health and safety standards in motivating and improving employee productivity has been studied by many renowned scholars and theorists like Maslow (2013) and Herzberg, Mausner & Snyderman (2011). However, this has not eradicated the implementation of ineffective health and safety standards by organizations such as Primark in a bid to improve profitability and reduce costs (Elgot, 2013). Pagnamenta (2013) and Industriall (2015) reports on factory collapse indicate the ineffectual health and safety measures of Primark. Further, Pursglove (2013) report signifies the poor employee performances at Primark. Although the association of health and safety measures on employee productivity is evident, investigations on this prospect have not been conducted widely, especially in the retail industry. According to Aviva (2011), “54% of employers claim they would invest more in workplace health and safety, if they could see a tangible return on investment (ROI)”. Thus for this investigation, researcher selects the business case of Primark and by providing an insight to Primark and similar retailers on the relationship between occupational health and productivity, this work will help to revitalize the company’s health and safety policies so that increased employee productivity can be attained. 

Research Aim

This investigation intends to determine the significance of health and safety measures in an organization. The aim of this research is to assess how health and safety measures influence employee productivity in retail organizations with special focus on the case of Primark. 

Research Objectives

To evaluate the health and safety measures adopted by Primark

To identify the factors that influence employee productivity in UK retail organizations 

To review the impact of health and safety measures on employee productivity in Primark, UK

To provide recommendations to Primark for improving health and safety measures

Research Questions

1. How significant are health and safety measures in employee wellbeing?

2. What are the main health and safety concerns of employees of Primark?

3. What strategies has Primark adopted to resolve the health and safety concerns of employees? 

4. How can Primark further improve the health and safety standards in the company?


Thus, this chapter has detailed the various aspects of the research background to show that this investigative study intends to reveal the relationship between health and safety standards in an organisation and employee productivity. Hence this research has substantial industrial significance owing to the drastic issues and criticism faced by organisations regarding their occupational health and safety measures provided. The first chapter of this study has herein given a detailed description of the rationale, aims and objectives and framed the questions for the present study.

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