5 workplace health and safety game changers

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Improving health and safety practices is often not as difficult as it seems. By focusing on five essential areas of activity you can deliver meaningful, lasting improvements.

Ian Hunter is an experienced manufacturing professional with proven capability at all levels of business, having personal experience of:

  • Safety and Environmental improvement and management processes
  • Quality Management and continuous improvement
  • Manufacturing management, lean Manufacturing and process improvement
  • Logistics and Supply Chain, production planning and inventory control
  • Customer Service management, service delivery and customer care.

Ian’s career has developed in multi-site manufacturing environments in FMCG industry, serving blue chip clients in the UK and abroad.  His interpersonal skills are used to work effectively with people at all levels from shop floor to board room; in leadership roles or as part of a team and in the consultancy and training context.

How do you improve Health and Safety in your workplace?  Where do you start? These questions are not as difficult to answer as you might think.  By focusing your energy on specific areas and grouping tasks together in to areas you could achieve improvements in health and safety that last. 

Here, we’ve created five simple initiatives that you can use to hone the Health and Safety performance of your business.

1 -  It all starts with competence

Lack of competence constantly crops up as a key factor in the causal analysis of incidents and accidents.  Put simply, accidents happen because people didn’t understand what they should have been doing. 

Whatever the task and whatever the level, competence is key, especially if you are asking line managers and supervisors to work on issues that sit outside their usual skill set.  Make sure that they have all of the knowledge they require to do their job effectively.  Even simple exercises such as demonstrations on the safe use of tools or safe execution of tasks can improve managers knowledge and increase competence.

Work out the competence requirements at different levels of the business through training needs analysis and invest in the training and education needed to fill in the gaps.

2 - Organise for Safety

Creating a safe organisation is a management task.  Ensure that your team is organised in a way that will ensure effective implementation of Health and Safety. 

Furthermore, your management layer defines the ‘culture’ of the organisation as a whole. Structure your team in a way that will ensure cultural as well as practical change.

Clear, agreed, unequivocal roles and responsibilities for line managers are essential.  Think of them like Arsenal’s famous back 4.  Each member of the team knows their role, responsibilities, who they are marking and where they should be.  Most importantly, they’re each accountable for what they do.

3 - Act on incidents

Every incident, be it a near miss or an accident is an indicator of weakness in your management system.  Thorough analysis, examination and research is needed to understand what happened and to take steps to prevent a recurrence.  Follow the chain of causation through to its bitter end and act on the findings – it may not be palatable but it will get results.

Your company needs to be collecting all of the essential incident data and making sure it’s being acted upon.  Don’t forget the importance of collecting near-miss data too.  Just because there was no accident on this occasion, doesn’t mean a lesson can’t be learned.  Train your incident managers to understand the importance of root cause analysis and how to reach the right conclusions.

4 - Understand your risk

Knowing where your organisation is most exposed to risk is essential.  Use quantifiable risk assessment processes to work out where the most significant risk is in your business.  Use the process to build your risk profile as a business or to construct a risk ‘map’ of significant risks.

Use the data you collect to develop your improvement or risk reduction plans and measure the improvement made over time by monitoring the actual risk reduction achieved.  This exercise can be very rewarding for your risk assessment teams because they can see the benefit they generate for the business.  The exercise will tell you exactly which processes carry most risk in your business.

5 - Plan, Plan, Plan

Get a plan!  Don’t just have a single plan either.  Construct short, medium and long term plans around the most risky activities (accounting for both Safety and Health).  Having a plan means that you have priorities and you can systematically work through them to reduce risk.

Ensure you organise according to your priorities and make sure that you provide each plan with sufficient resources.  Underpin your plans with solid, achievable targets and objectives for the whole team.

Your plans provide the feedstock for performance reporting, briefing to your employees and representatives and motivating your teams to do more.

Knowing how and where to implement changes through your organisation can be supported through the EEF IOSH Safety for Senior Executives Training Course.  In common with many of our Health and Safety training courses, the IOSH Safety for Senior Executives course will equip you with detailed information and knowledge of health and safety best practice and legal knowledge.

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