If you exclude earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis and hurricanes most deaths and other injuries to people at work are man-made. Think about that for a minute. If man designed better workplaces, planned for work so that it can be done safely and not damaging to health those fatalities and injuries might not happen.

So why do we not just do that?

I sincerely believe it is because we do not care enough. CEOs and senior managers are not trained in health and safety and its benefits to business and workers. Businesses are too focused on making money, building market share, paying themselves and their shareholders too much to really think about the work we ask workers to do.

In this blog I want to share with you the five basics of health and safety as I see them that every organisation, big or small can implement:

  • Let’s design workplaces with the workers in mind as well as the product and the customers.
  • Manage health and safety in all inputs
  • Consult on all the key issues with those that will be affected by them
  • Train Managers first, then train workers and then get them working together every day dealing with health and safety issues to eliminate them.
  • Make health and safety personal – through management ownership, safety leadership and accountability

Safety of work premises

Every workplace that is built is supposed to take into account:

How people get in and out of it, particularly in an emergency

How it will operate and how goods and people will move about inside

How it will be maintained, internally and externally

How it can be eventually demolished at the end of its life.

I have inspected many premises and one of the biggest issues is lack of space, storage space for equipment, or supplies. Similarly I have been in the most wonderful retail premises which are a joy to shop in but that provide poor or no facilities for workers with regard to toilets, locker rooms, canteen behind the scenes etc.

Work equipment

Once the building is occupied then the company managing it should plan for health and safety in everything. Every piece of equipment from a paper clip up should be carefully selected (so that you buy the best you can afford that is safe for use). If it is a major piece of kit it may have to be installed by a competent electrician if it cannot just be plugged in.

The same applies to all raw materials brought in, all tasks given to workers to complete and all cleaning routines.

Consultation

How many organisations really consult workers on the work to be done, the equipment and raw materials to be used? Not that many. Often the level of consultation is the delivery of decisions already made.

Train everyone

I provide a range of health and safety training programmes to my clients and am continually amazed that when I am not asked to put forward proposals for training managers, senior managers of the Board. There are exceptions of course and right now I am planning to deliver a legal briefing to a Board of a major not for profit organisation.

There is a myth that management do not need further training and that all training resources should be focused on workers in terms of e.g. manual handling, safety awareness, fire-fighting training, chemical handling etc.

While providing training in all of these areas to workers is absolutely valuable, it is utterly useless if management are not trained to; understand their legal and moral obligations: understand hazards and risks: buy into effective consultation and exercise servant leadership in protecting their workers.

What about ownership, safety leadership and accountability?

First management must accept ownership of health and safety in their areas and departments. They should receive training, support and resources from CEO to manage health and safety and they should be held to account for what happens in their areas. CEOs do not have to micro manage health and safety but they do have to ensure that it is being done by their managers and that involves regular conversations about what it happening currently and what is planned. Health and safety should be on every management meeting agenda and should discuss lagging and leading indicators.

Safety leadership is shown when managers make health and safety personal…….

In enlightened companies, individual managers have health and safety costs (lost production, investigation costs, medical costs and even rising insurance premiums) charged to their departmental budgets. This can then impact on them personally and ultimately affects their performance rating, bonus and possible promotion.

What we need is a renewal of Safety Leadership

If every CEO in the country spent one hour per day focused on two things we would change the health and safety of all workers. Those two things are:

  1. Plan for health and safety in everything you are about to do
  1. Deal with the key hazards that already exist in your business – dealing with the most dangerous first and then working your way down to the least dangerous