Health and Safety Management can be an onerous activity. Many organisations see it as a ‘necessary evil’. It is not optional but instead is driven by legislation. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, often referred to as HASAW or HSW, is an Act of Parliament and is the main piece of UK health and safety legislation. It places a duty on all employers "to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work" of all their employees.
The supporting legislation under the HASAW goes into more detail in certain areas, for example section 3 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking. Another example is the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR 2013) which is the law that requires employers and other people in charge of work premises, to report and keep records of:
- work-related accidents which cause deaths
- work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries (reportable injuries)
- diagnosed cases of certain industrial diseases; and
- certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (incidents with the potential to cause harm)
The nature of these legal documents and the language they are written in can be very confusing to many organisations. It is extremely important that appropriately qualified or experienced resources are brought in or appointed to provide support on these matters. This is even more relevant where standards and legislative requirements appear similar or have similar sounding terminology e.g. Environmental Emissions Testing in relation to the legal requirements governing air pollutants released into the atmosphere and Workplace Environment Testing which is about monitoring the levels of exposure to harmful substances.
Many companies waste days, weeks and even months trying to meet the requirements of a healthy and safe workplace but when this is attempted without the necessary experience it often ends up being a fruitless or even counterproductive exercise.
All organisations have management processes or arrangements to deal with payroll, personnel issues, finance and quality control – managing health and safety is no different. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to put in place arrangements to control health and safety risks. As a minimum, organisations should have the processes and procedures required to meet the legal requirements, including:
- a written health and safety policy (if you employ five or more people);
- assessments of the risks to employees, contractors, customers, partners, and any other people who could be affected by your activities – and record the significant findings in writing (if you employ five or more people). Any risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’;
- arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures that come from risk assessment;
- access to competent health and safety advice;
- providing employees with information about the risks in your workplace and how they are protected;
- instruction and training for employees in how to deal with the risks;
- ensuring there is adequate and appropriate supervision in place;
- consulting with employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures.
Effective leaders and line managers know the risks their organisations face, how to rank them in order of importance and what action to take to control them. The range of risks goes beyond health and safety risks to include quality, environmental and asset damage, but issues in one area could impact another. Although you may not use these precise terms, you will most likely have built a risk profile that covers:
- the nature and level of the risks faced by your organisation;
- the likelihood of adverse effects occurring and the level of disruption;
- the costs associated with each type of risk;
- the effectiveness of the controls in place to manage those risks.