The Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident revealed a number of failings. These included the fact that four internal maintenance reports had highlighted that the TMV for the bath wasn't working, that the water temperature at the tap was 60oC and identified it as "high risk" and inadequate staff training.
The case illustrates the importance to effective health and safety management of involving and consulting the workforce as a matter of routine. The failures that led to the scalding incident were known to the workforce within each company but there were no systems for managers to learn about and take action on the issues, problems and shortcomings faced on a daily basis.
Previous articles in this series have referred to the importance of worker involvement; here we consider what is involved and the essential ingredients of an effective system of worker involvement.
There is a legal requirement for employers to consult and involve their workers about issues concerning health and safety at work. Specifically they are required to provide information, instruction, training and engage in consultation with their employees. Many businesses go beyond this minimum legal requirement and encourage the full participation of their workforce in the management of health and safety. They recognise the benefits to their business of having a workforce that co-operates, identifies problems and works to find solutions. Workforce involvement brings their buy-in and in turn fewer injuries, fewer accidents and mistakes involving equipment or product damage and a reduction in the costs and overheads that result from such incidents.
Effective workforce involvement will;
- Provide timely instruction, information and training to enable employees to work in a safe and healthy manner.
- See safety representatives or representatives of employee safety carrying out their full range of functions.
- Consult the workforce or their representatives on Health and Safety issues relating to their work when changes are planned or before they are introduced.
- Engage workers in risk assessment and make the results of assessments known to all.
- Engage workers in identifying hazards and safe systems of work in dynamic situations, when there is a new or unexpected task or unfamiliar circumstances arise.
- Include hazard reporting arrangements, suggestion schemes or formal open meetings with managers.
- Routine tool-box briefings and team meetings which may be led by employees.
- Lead to joint decisions on health and safety matters.
Next time - Effective Arrangements