An accident is defined as ‘an event that is without apparent cause, or is unexpected.’ Therefore, the accident may have been avoided if action had been taken ‘prior to the event’. When we discuss accidents in relation to health and safety we tend to think of major incidents that have been broadcast nationwide, for example the Kings Cross fire, but all accidents and incidents which are ‘unexpected’ and ‘unintended’ in the workplace can be classed as ‘accidents’ and are worth analysing. This can then allow the implementation of strategies to prevent them happening again. Investigation of all accidents will make the investigator realise that they are ‘preventable’.
Risk assessments play a vital role in the prevention of accidents; they allow you to find potential causes of accidents before they happen. When conducting a risk assessment ensure that you cover all aspects of your business and highlight any potential hazards, no matter how trivial they may seem. Remember, you must act upon the findings of your risk assessment rather than sweeping it aside for the future. You should conduct risk assessments on a regular basis as well as whenever there is a significant change to the workplace.
Full records of all risks assessments should be kept as well as the necessary documentation relating to any action that you have taken. Document safe systems of work and make sure that you communicate these safe systems to your workforce. It will help them to understand that you are dedicated to promoting a safe working environment. Risk assessments are no good if they are left unread in the office – their conclusions should lead to good, well documented, safe systems of work that are understood and accepted by all who may be affected by them.
No worker should ever be allowed to work without having been properly trained what to do and supervised until they know how to work safely. Those who are seen to work unsafely or not strictly according to the safe system should be reminded and, where necessary, disciplined, until they change and adhere to the documented system. Many clients, when asked for the first time about health and safety training will say that they do not do any – this is usually incorrect as most companies and organisations have some training programmes in place. However, they may have employed a series of workers, who have, since very basic induction, received no formal training in the job that they do. They may be ‘time served’ apprentices, electricians, welders or other professionals and may have been with your organisation for many years. If they have not received training you will, almost certainly be non-compliant with health and safety law which requires that all persons receive suitable and sufficient training to work safely. This should be documented (so that you can prove it). Much of this training could be done ‘in house’ but some types of training (e.g. first aid, manual handling, fork-lift truck driving, chainsaw use, etc.) will need to involve outsiders who are competent to provide what is required and can provide accredited certification.
Induction training should always be properly structured and must be attended by all persons to include emergency procedures and first aid procedures. All training must be documented. In the event of any private claim by an employee against the organisation you will be expected to provide the individuals’ training record to their solicitor. If the record does not prove that the person has been adequately trained, it is likely that the claimant will win at any subsequent court case.
Ensure that your management and supervisory staff are properly trained and understand what is required of them to manage safety within the business. They will have legal responsibility to do this, whether they like it or not, and coud be personally liable if they do not follow safe procedures and impart safe systems to those to whom they have responsibility. Similarly, if they report matters to senior management which, because of lack of action, eventually lead to accidents occuring, they will have fulfilled their requirement and responsibility will fall to those managers who failed to take the appropriate action. In case law it is often the failure to take action that is the prosecutable offence.
You are required, by law, to consult with employees about health, safety and welfare issues and this can only be proved to have taken place by the keeping of consultation records. By talking to workers and involving them, safety is brought to the forefront. Consultation is required and does not need to be formal. Simple consultation examples include periodic Team Briefings but it may serve better to organise periodic Safety Committee meetings with representatives from the workforce and managers. These meetings may seem chaotic at first but will soon develop into meaningful discussions and agreements on the best way forward. Always keep notes of what was discussed and action points raised / completed.
Accidents are preventable. By properly training your workers, by re-enforcing that training by good example, by opening dialogue to workers to contribute and listening to their concerns thus moving towards health, safety and welfare improvements, by properly managing risks and the setting of documented safe systems of work that are monitored and supervised you will certainly reduce accidents in the workplace. Workers will appreciate your efforts resulting in better worker/manager relationships.
Remember, our Health & Safety services are on hand to help you better understand and manage your obligations and provide you with the knowledge and the systems to allow you to be one step ahead. To speak to one of our Advice Service Consultants call 0844 892 2785.