Here's a harsh fact for you: if you don’t have the required level of commitment to health and safety at all levels of your business, then you will always have serious limitations... in short, 'people' can trip you up.
It's why we included 'People' as section five in our free eGuide: Don't trip! 5 Health & Safety Audit Stumbling Blocks to Avoid.
Here's what we think. I hope you find it useful.
Board level engagement
Staff engagement begins at board level. Directors must adopt health and safety as a key area of concern. This is relatively easy to achieve once they understand the potential impact of bad health & safety:
- Fines of up to £10 million can be handed down
- Possible prison sentences for individuals held responsible
- Facing the family of an injured employee in court
- Reputational damage affecting existing or potential trade contracts or partnerships
- Damaged brand affecting company valuations
- Difficulty hiring and retaining quality staff
- Employee satisfaction and motivation levels dip
- Working days lost due to injury or illness affect productivity
But Health & Safety is not only about avoiding negatives and should be embraced as a positive opportunity to gain a good reputation that enhances your brand value and has a knock-on improvement to the bottom line.
So how does the board illustrate their commitment and ensure they do the right thing by their employees, customers and/or the general public?
Firstly, health & safety must appear regularly on the agenda for board meetings, ideally with RAG status reporting. Secondly, benchmarks could be set based on historical data or by comparison to industry sector averages. Either way realistic targets for continuous improvement should be identified and progress against these targets monitored.
Another way to ensure and demonstrate that safety is always a key consideration, is to include H&S factors in every business case put before the directors. Safety and health issues are thereby always a major part of any new decisions made by the board.
Permeating the workforce culture at all levels
If only the board is interested in keeping the health and safety sheet clean, then like it or not, incidents will still occur. For a responsible culture to prevail, you need clear communication from the top, showing that the board care about their H&S statistics. There should be a KPI (key performance indicator) for every team in the company, ensuring that middle management keep their eye on the ball too.
A possible hurdle to improving company culture and general attitude to health and safety matters, is when concerns are raised in the lower ranks and dismissed by team leaders who feel they are too busy to take action.
According to the TUC (Trades Union Congress), evidence shows that workplaces with union safety reps and joint union-management safety committees have major injury rates less than half of those without.
And it makes sense that this would be the case. Promoting a clear framework for feedback both enables and encourages staff at all levels to think about prevention of accidents and illness. And once they start to consider how things could be improved and feel that they can shape procedures, they are far more likely to take ownership and follow the rules. Let’s face it, directors, managers and senior officials are statistically less likely to suffer work-related ill health or injury than your average factory worker or skilled tradesman.* Given this discrepancy, you need input from the lower ranks to enable accident prevention.
*According to the Labour Force Survey undertaken by the Office for National Statistics, data from report lfsilloc, reviewing 2013 – ‘16 workplace-related illness or injury by occupation.
The above excerpt is from our free eGuide. Why not download your copy today? It covers:
- Why auditing efficiently is critical
- 5 areas that companies get fundamentally wrong (and how you can avoid making the same mistakes)
- Several top tips to get ahead of the game
Other guides you should read: