Health and safety is an expected provision in the workplace. Whether employees are based in an office or project site, employers have a fundamental duty to provide an environment where health and safety risks are controlled.
In the UK, health and safety culture isn’t an unfamiliar concept. A survey conducted by the HSE found that UK-based business managers were more likely to possess documented policies and undertake regular health and safety checks compared to other EU countries. Despite this, 147 work fatalities were reported in Great Britain during 2018/19 – a sobering reminder that risk is always present.
What can your organisation do to mitigate risk? It begins with understanding that effective health and safety policy not only needs foolproof rules and regulations on paper, but also successful communication and greater employee engagement. Promoting health and safety throughout your organisation will ensure that employees engage with your policy, rather than leaving it in the handbook – helping them stay safe.
This page sets out to highlight best practice methods of achieving this, propelling you towards improving health and safety promotion in your organisation.
Precautionary health and safety measures are the key differentiator between an incident-free workplace and one that is accident-prone. However, these controls are only worthwhile when meaningfully communicated. In fact, poorly informed or unengaged employees could prove to be the greatest risk you face. How can you tackle this?
If you want an internal health and safety culture that not only prevents an incident, but also equips your workforce with the knowledge to autonomously prevent it – we’ve highlighted a few step-by-step guidelines to follow.
Put simply, a workplace health and safety policy ensures the wellbeing of employees and safeguards employers against costly negligence risk.
In the past, disregard for employee wellbeing was widespread – think hazardous machinery, cramped conditions, and poor processes. Fortunately, historical cases of poor health and safety at work are now confined to a bygone era – but serve as an apt reminder of why it’s important.
Nowadays, there are many reasons why your business should strive to achieve a culture of positive health and safety. Here are some of the benefits:
Health and safety incidents reduce employee engagement and damage wellbeing, so preventing them should be a top priority. In fact, an academic study found that workplace health programs, including the promotion of safety culture, are proven to positively impact employee morale.
Health and safety failings seriously affect how important stakeholders view your organisation. If you want loyal employees, contractors, and suppliers, a culture of health and safety will future-proof your business.
You’re legally obligated to protect your workforce from harm during work – it’s that simple. A foolproof health and safety policy that’s ingrained within your company culture will safeguard your business against accidents that can snowball into serious legal consequences.
Health and safety is wholly about promoting good practice – enabling greater productivity both ethically and financially. By promoting a strong health and safety culture, you’ll minimise the risk of a serious incident so business productivity can thrive.
A major incident has the potential to cripple an organisation. Not only in terms of reputation, but also by shouldering your company with serious costs – including missed working days, investigation costs, legal fees, and much more. To summarise, let’s reflect on the following quote:
“If you think safety is expensive, try an accident.”Trevor Keltz, renowned safety culture expert. i
In a business, everyone is responsible for maintaining adequate health and safety standards, but ultimately as an employer you’re required by law to set them. Here’s a figurative scenario:
A construction employee is working onsite overnight – but fails to wear his necessary high-vis jacket. Due to his low visibility, the worker is struck down by a construction vehicle and isn’t discovered until the morning. What vital health and safety procedures were missed, and how could this be prevented?
Firstly, the employer has failed to effectively communicate health and safety protocol, consequently causing the worker to not follow procedure. If health and safety was adequately spotlighted throughout your organisation and woven into your employee’s routine, he’d be less likely to miss the crucial step of putting on a high-vis jacket.
Secondly, this absence of health and safety awareness caused the employee to overlook it due to lack of understanding – outlining a cyclical dilemma of responsibility. In reality, both employer and employee are responsible in the end. To cut through the noise, here’s a straightforward outline of each party’s responsibilities:
“Safety is the most productive business.”
“Safety starts with me.”
Considering this list, what health and safety regulation are you legally responsible for?
The UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1947 secures employee rights to a work environment that controls health and safety risk. As an employer, you are required by law to protect your workforce from injury or illness at work. This includes your employees, indirect employees, or any member of your supply chain that are on your premises. Failure to do so is not only dangerous, costly, and negligent, but also damaging to employee morale and company reputation.
Additionally, malpractice can result in a regulator or local authority acting under criminal law against your business, or the person(s) affected claiming compensation under civil law.
Depending on your industry, legal responsibilities may become inflated in environments that carry greater risk. For example, agriculture, forestry, construction, and defence. However, even an office-based business should mitigate risk where possible – by implementing rudimentary protocols such as fire safety training or electrical tests in an office space.
It’s clear that no matter where you work, who you work with, or what work you’re doing – health and safety is paramount. But, achieving a strong culture of health and safety is reliant on employees adopting and adhering to your policy.
With this in mind, here’s five best practice steps to promote health and safety in your organisation.
A ‘competent person’ refers to an individual with the combined skills, experience, training, and knowledge to adequately apply health and safety protocol in your organisation. In theory, this individual can successfully monitor health and safety autonomously – and promote best practice amongst your workforce.
Frankly, you wouldn’t put ‘Clumsy Carlson’, who is notorious for misplacing work keys, in charge of health and safety. So aside from firstly drafting a comprehensive health and safety policy, you’ll need to identify competent person(s) to help you meet your duties. You should consider:
If none of these attributes match the members of your workforce, or health and safety is deemed to be complex or high-risk, you should get help from an external resource. This should be an advisor or consultant who matches the above qualities, is qualified with relevant training and – most importantly – is covered under insurance.
For many, it’s preferable to manage health and safety in-house, as an external advisor may overlook important issues that your internal teams face on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, external help can be a costly drain on your resources.
To tackle this, many organisations now use online health and safety management software to oversee vital management, empowering them to manage and promote H&S autonomously, while saving both time and money. However, competency should always remain a necessity – not an afterthought. Remember to consider this:
“Safety is not a gadget – but a state of mind.”Eleanor Everet, safety expert. ii
How are you managing health and safety in your organisation? If your employees are still writing reports on paper to be physically filed away into the depths of a long-forgotten desk drawer, then how effective is your management – really? Or, if your methods of management are already digital, are they efficient?
Promoting best practice requires improved management processes. By reassessing the pain points in current administration structure and adopting improved and efficient methods, you’ll renew engagement amongst your employees and create a system of information sharing that continually promotes best practice.
Here’s a list of health and safety management features to look for:
Your health and safety management solution should be ‘mobile’. Preferably, you should use an online system that’s accessible from anywhere, such as a platform employees can log in to, or a handy mobile application. This enables users to manage H&S no matter where they are, so they can track, share, or find important information on the go.
Secondly, it’s important that your chosen health and safety management solution gathers all essential information into one place. Essential process such as a health and safety audit requires an organised environment where information can be found quickly.
Without it, important information can be missed or searching for paperwork can take up valuable time. A centralised system that stores all your H&S data in one place, and is easy to search, can simplify the process – reducing business downtime.
If an incident occurs on your site, the relevant authorities, such as HSE, will need to conduct investigations at a cost to your business.
Documents and data filed away in physical storage can be difficult to find, creating a lengthy process that’s reliant on the investigative body finding the right information quickly – making your organisation non-operational in the meantime.
An online system can simplify this, creating a best practice system that securely stores historical records of all essential data.
Can your workforce easily view health and safety compliance status? If the records of your last fire alarm test are on sheets of paper, it’s easy to lose track of performance.
More so, a large and complex business performing multiple equipment, employee, or worksite audits requires a management system where this information is easy to view. A management tool that displays real-time compliance indicators will ensure you’re never caught out again.
Employee engagement is a working approach that promotes a two-way commitment between employer and employee; encouraging mutual understanding and participation in workplace objectives.
Engaged personnel understand what’s expected of them, enabling them to confidently carry out their roles. For example, a competent worker who is fully briefed on health and safety and understands its importance is more likely to follow best practice, while encouraging others to do so too.
Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that engaged employees were five times less likely to have a safety incident, compared to less engaged personnel. When your people are committed to meeting health and safety objectives, an accident is less likely.
However, greater levels of engagement aren’t achievable without efforts by the employer to communicate exactly why health and safety best practice is important, and simultaneously, employers must give a moral and economic incentive to their workforce too.
What are some straightforward methods to begin improving employee engagement?
Did you know, an American study found that Monday is the most dangerous day of the week for workplace accidents? Mitigate risk by planning safety meetings at the start of the week and checking back in with your workforce regularly.US Bureau of Labour Statistics
As an employer, you are required to provide and maintain a safe working environment alongside compliant welfare facilities. Delivering the correct environment provides the right setting for employees to follow health and safety procedure, enabling personnel to remain compliant and follow best practice in your organisation.
What’s more, by maintaining a safe work environment you’ll improve employee wellbeing and engagement – the essential components of creating a stronger health and safety culture. In fact, studies show that engaged employees are more likely to support organisational objectives, so implementing best practice in your environment will nurture health and safety goals.
This process has a multitude of benefits such as mitigating risk in the environment, setting high standards, and equipping personnel with the right resources to follow procedure. To ensure you’re following the right direction, here are the basics recommended by the HSE:
“I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.”Albert Einstein, academic, physicist, and celebrated visionary. iii
Although organisations should provide teaching and training as standard, your methods of information delivery are integral to promoting health and safety best practice. Ask yourself the following questions:
Health and safety should never take a back seat. A temporary worker sourced from a third-party partner should be able to find documents, training, or guidelines. At the same time, it should be straightforward for your internal employees to find your most up to date policies.
If you don’t have a central knowledge base, information can become disparate, disjointed, out-of-date, and difficult to find. If an accident happened, is your workforce equipped with the internal knowledge to react correctly? More so, are they likely to independently learn important knowledge?
A health and safety knowledge base can be hosted on an internal intranet system, online health and safety management tools, or via your own custom solution. However, if you lack internal resources to deliver information to your employees, then an outsourced solution can be beneficial. This empowers workers to source information, learn, and embrace a stronger health and safety culture.
Promoting health and safety in your organisation requires your employees to be engaged and reflective about health and safety outcomes. When an issue occurs, personnel who are equipped with both the tools and internal knowledge to autonomously handle and mitigate risk – presently and in the future – will closely follow best practice. The recommended HSE model of management highlights this:
When you encourage individuals to continuously recognise health and safety issues, reflect, review, advise, decide, and reflect again – you’re well on your way to creating a culture that mitigates risk and safeguards your business against an incident.
This process is not only a psychological one, but an administrative one too – especially pertinent to health and safety management methods. Your workforce should be able to independently record, monitor, share, and find essential information – all from a centralised health and safety management system. Without this, a culture of health and safety will be hard to maintain.
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