Whilst writing this article much of Britain is gearing up for a white Easter, as weather forecasters warn of freezing conditions that have brought snow and hazardous conditions to much of the country and as we know this can lead to risk based decisions for external workers as well as potential slip, trips and falls in and around the workplace. There are always effective actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of a slip or trip, where sensible management and, wherever possible, prevention is the key, for example: monitoring the temperature and covering or gritting frequently used walkways. Remember slips and trips are still the most common workplace hazard and make up over a third of all major injuries, with over 10,000 workers suffering serious injury in last year alone where effective and sensible management is fundamental.

Previous articles in this series have described the unbalanced and often nonsensical approach that some people and businesses take towards health and safety at work. They have explained that the sensible approach to health and safety management should be no different to any other aspect of business and based on plan, do, check, act. We continue the series by considering the leadership and management style that promotes an outstanding health and safety performance.

The effective management of health and safety at work doesn’t just happen. It, like the effective management of any other business function, is the result of leadership, leading by example, and a clear demonstration of commitment. Results and outcomes reflect the level of detail and the effort put into the management of an activity.

Ineffective leadership can be seen in businesses where there are no priorities set for health and safety, where managers do not use protective equipment or follow safety procedures, where there is no engagement with the workforce and there is history of accidents and incidents. Typically these businesses will be routinely in breach of legal requirements, employees will not understand their roles, information will be misunderstood, employees’ protests will be ignored and lessons will never be learnt.

In complete contrast an effective health and safety management system will be characterised by Senior Managers and leaders who-

  • Keep their focus on the significant risks and the implementation of adequate controls;
  • Demonstrate their commitment by their actions;
  • Show that they are aware of the key health and safety issues;
  • Consult with their workforce on health and safety issues; and
  • Challenge unsafe behaviour when it occurs rather than in hindsight.

Within their business there will be a clear commitment to the management of health and safety, there will be;

  • A systematic approach to the managing of health and safety;
  • A clear understanding and appreciation by the workforce of the risks and control measures associated with their work;
  • Appropriate documentation which is current, relevant and organised;
  • Personnel who understand their roles and those of others;
  • Performance measurement to check that controls are working and standards are being maintained; and
  • An indication that the business learns from mistakes when things go wrong.

In the very best examples of good management the picture will be one that shows the business going beyond mere compliance with legislation. Examples of this approach will include;

  • A formal health and safety management such as ISO 9001 or BS OHSAS 18001 which is externally accredited and monitored;
  • The integration of health and safety into business processes;
  • Benchmarking to compare performance with others;
  • The involvement of the supply chain in plans to improve health and safety performance;
  • A ‘well-being’ plan to support their workforce.

Businesses that demonstrate these characteristics will reap the benefits. Fewer accidents and injuries will keep insurance costs down, overheads will reduce, mistakes and consequent loss of business opportunity will reduce and customers will see a committed business supported by a loyal and contented workforce. These businesses will not receive adverse comment or publicity because of a serious incident or an ill-considered decision such as the local council that banned prams and buggies from a children’s centre and nursery on health and safety grounds.

Peninsula’s BusinessSafe service will provide the structure and outline of an effective health and safety management system but it will require effective leadership and management to make it effective.

Next time – Managing health and safety with competence