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Don’t put health and safety on a pedestal

  • 01 May 2018 - 11:52

    I often see company campaigns that state that health and safety is more important than production, more important than profit. I usually tag another line on the end. When it suits…

    Those lines are often a bit of knee jerk reaction after something serious has gone wrong.

    I don’t think business should be afraid to say they want to make money, they should be proud that they are efficient and have good production rates. After all without those things they will struggle to survive.

    The smart businesses are the ones that state health and safety is as important as everything else they do.

    • As important as profit;
    • As important as production;
    • As important as their environmental impact and quality of product.

    These businesses just do things right.

    But what can ‘As important as’ actually mean.

    Talk the right way

    For me it means you spend as much time talking about health and safety as you do other topics. Some companies put health and safety on ALL meeting agendas. But to an extent that is compartmentalising it. Surely there is a health and safety consideration in everything we do. I would rather see at the top of an agenda the line: How will the things we talk about today effect our health and safety performance? Let’s consider it all the way down the agenda.

    Be inclusive

    Health and safety is often seen as an operational issue so spread it into the non-operational departments. Your sales team are going in to talk about a major contract, get them to discuss the health and safety impact on the business, more vehicle movements, unfamiliar drivers on site, longer hours of work. Get them to get some assurances from the customers on site safety.

    I once investigated an incident where a fitter was injured working on top of an aggregate feed hopper. One of the factors that came out was he was rushing to get the job completed. It turned out he had been contacted over 10 times by four different people to ‘See how he was getting on'. The calls came from his line manager, the sales office, the sales manager and even a client. Each call compounded the issue and he made a mistake.

    One call not asking 'How long is it going to take?' but 'How long do you need?' was all that was needed.

    Understand your risks

    I was with a client in Grantham recently who wanted to look at the risks in their business. I use this simple tool that identifies the risks, challenges how well the risk is understood by the business. Identifies the best control methods and compares it to what is in place and then helps set a plan for the future.

    We identified one of the biggest risks his employees faced was driving to and from site. Once on site things were well controlled but the company had nothing in place for driving at work, competence assessments or improvement, monitoring hours at the wheel or vehicle tracking.

    It had been completely overlooked. Now I am not saying all the above was needed but what was needed was a good look at what the company expected, how easy they made it for employees to stay away overnight if their day ran on, how well they planned their workloads for individual site engineers.

    So understand your business and the risks it faces and get control.

    Plan for health and safety

    How many of you have clear financial objectives?

    How many of you have clear production objectives?

    How many of you have clear quality objectives?

    Where do your health and safety objectives sit?

    If you don’t have any then start thinking of some but try and be proactive.

    Rather than number of days without a lost-time incident why not make the objective percentage of staff who really understand risk assessment and contribute daily.

    Rather than number of near misses reported make the objective number of positive improvements made after suggestions from the workforce.

    And remember health issues, plan so personnel can work in a dust- or noise-free environment with minimal need for PPE. I recently saw a video of a Tarmac quarry in North Yorkshire and the cabs of the machines that were three or four years old looked like they had just come out of the factory. It was amazing and shows if you really, really want to control workplace exposure to silica dust you can. But you have got to want to do it.

    Once you really understand what you are trying to achieve you can then develop a plan to get there.

    If you need any help setting challenging, proactive objectives or would like to discuss planning for health and safety or the risk rating process then please drop me a line at [email protected] or call: 07799 656303


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