As my colleague Ian Cooke recently explained in his video interview, one of the most common questions we get asked by HSE managers is: How can my company develop an effective health and safety culture? At the heart of this query is a desire to go from a focus on a ‘zero harm’ compliance to true commitment to best in class safety practices across the organisation.
This graph shows how this progression takes place (typically over a period of years with a great deal of expertise and effort):
In working with manufacturers as a health and safety consultant on establishing this organisational and employee commitment to occupational health and safety, I’ve found there are three important steps to jump start this journey.
Step 1: Improved Operations
Most manufacturers are already hard at work on this step, which focuses on identifying hazards in the work environment. This could be equipment faults, tripping dangers or blocked fire exits. Despite the fact that most companies recognise the risk here, there are still those who make headlines for their failings (particularly with the larger fines handed out from the new Sentencing Guidelines) and overlooked dangers, such as accidents caused by on-site contractors.
Step 2: Improved Systems
In the graph above, the middle section is all about safety systems. This covers a variety of practices including
If a company has these items in hand, they have gone a long way to not only comply with legislation, but providing solid leadership and clear responsibilities at all levels. In order to be successful, these systems need to be tied to clear objectives at an organisational and individual level.
Too often I assess companies that think they have excellent risk assessments and safe systems, but in reality there are many opportunities for improvement. And often these hidden challenges come in the form of human factors.
Step 3: Improved Behaviour
Human factors are often the hidden element in a company’s safety successes or failings. At the end of the day people have accidents, not organisations!
What is it that makes people behave in a risk taking manner? And what can your organisation do to mitigate these behaviours? The first step is to ask the right questions:
- what pressures are individuals under that might encourage them to take risks?
- what would encourage employees to stop and think about health and safety?
- how do you reward good practice (rather than just punishing bad)?
- how are employees encouraged to ask safety questions?
- do certain management styles contribute to the impression that efficiency is more important than safety?
If you’re interested in having an EEF expert in health and safety in manufacturing help improve your systems, risk assessments, staff competence or workplace culture, get in touch.