Sense and Sensibility in Health and Safety Management - Part 5

Peninsula Team

May 05 2013

Earlier this month Staples Disposables Ltd, a Lincolnshire firm which makes disposable paper products, was ordered to pay more than £116,000 in fines and costs after three workers suffered hand injuries. The injuries occurred between July 2011 and August 2012, they were unconnected but were all the result of unsafe machinery; machinery that was either not guarded or where the protection had been by-passed.

The case, the injuries and the fine show how important it is for businesses to have an effective safety management system. Earlier articles in this series have explained the need for senior managers to develop a health and safety management plan and demonstrate through leadership, the importance of health and safety to the efficiency and profitability of their business.

Planning and leadership alone, no matter how good it is, will not bring the expected benefits unless the business understands exactly what is required and has the ability to put its plans into action. For this it requires competence, the practical knowledge and experience to achieve the recognised standard of compliance.

It is a regulatory requirement that businesses appoint one or more competent persons to help them implement the actions they need to take to comply with their statutory duties. This could be a manager, employee or an external consultant.
Whoever is appointed must be up to the task, they must be competent in what they are expected to do. This is particularly important if they are in a safety critical role, such as a maintenance engineer. People who are competent will be able to recognise the risks in their activities and apply the right measures to control and manage those risks as they affect themselves and others.

Management therefore needs to consider competency and whether they have competent advice. The issues they need to consider will include:
  • The health and safety responsibility of managers and supervisors.
  • In larger businesses who will take Boardroom responsibility for health and safety, their competence and awareness, and active involvement in health and safety management.
  • Who fulfils the role of the competent person for Health and Safety?
  • The need for external competent advice.
  • How the business will respond to external advice.
  • How staff are selected for the tasks they carry out.
  • Training for the tasks carried out by employees.
Competency is sufficient where the business can show that:
  • Everyone knows the hazards and risks within the business and knows how to manage.
  • Key roles and responsibilities are defined and allocated to named people.
  • These people have been trained and have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out those duties and are given the necessary time to do so.
  • Employees are trained in working time and are not charged.
  • Lessons are learnt and good practice is shared.
Next time – Consulting and involving the workforce.

By Tony Trenear

For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on
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