Following the lockdown and various restriction levels in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive is now only trying to get back to their routine Health and Safety checks. This comes on the back of a change that was introduced some years ago to stop inspecting low risk businesses/industries.
What has that meant for businesses and in particular those that react to inspections rather than proactively managing their hazards correctly.
The likelihood is that it’ll result in giving the green light for those businesses “who have a mind to do so” to just cut corners with potentially dire consequences. It’s perhaps just as well then that certain very high risk sectors have continued to receive HSE inspections and in many cases with more attention to detail and due diligence.
Surely though whatever your business we all need to play our role in ensuring a safe workplace, and ultimately it’s in the boardroom where the prime responsibility sits to create the correct safety culture for their organisation.
Management’s style of leadership is crucial in ensuring processes are simple, fit for purpose, widely communicated, and staff compliance with health and safety is achieved through good example. It’s key for employers to stop and think what could happen to their employees and take the correct mitigation measures to prevent injury.
Why do tragedies in the workplace still happen? It’s because even with clear safety procedures in place, the pressure to deliver means that management often still take short cuts to save time and money.
So it takes an inspection from the health and safety executive or worst still, an accident for some companies to recognise the crucial importance of health and safety at work and yes it’s true that many firms (and not just SME’s) are still dismissing the legislation as a costly nuisance, instead of a vital way of making their workplace safer and protecting lives.
It’s tragic if people have to wait until there is injury or a fatality in their company before management realises the importance of health and safety to their business.
Some companies remain ignorant about the legislation and don't understand that it’s about protecting their staff’s well-being. However that’s no excuse. People’s lives are being put at risk and there are still too many examples where management are not thinking about safety first.
Organisations need to be clearer, not so much about what they are saying but what they are doing. It involves more genuine empowerment of their staff to ensure that what’s being done in practice is safe and aligned to their safety management systems.
Successful companies do not see Health and Safety as an “add-on” but instead as an integral part of a company’s overall management system and a way of demonstrating how they do business. This should be how organisations define how ‘things’ are actually done, not what management think is being done.
However, Health and Safety can’t be managed from the office. Quality of performance comes from individual’s actions, driven by what they think and feel. This is heavily influenced by the culture set by management. Remember your lowest standard can become your subordinates or contractor’s highest!
So unfortunately it takes accidents, incidents and a bill from the health and safety executive's visit to remind all management teams, not just those in the high risk energy industries, to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously.
Management should always be considering the potential, unintended consequences of their decisions at all times and none more so in these “tough pandemic times” when corporate priority is focused on time equals money. Failure to do so will always prove the more expensive in cost and reputation.
Yes, improving the UK’s workplace safety record should be all of our responsibility. Extolling a more positive message, rather than one ringing fear and trepidation in businesses is still the challenge. This is not helped by today’s blame culture dominance and often labelling of health and safety as something of an expensive and burdensome joke.
But until management at the very top take the initiative to put the correct safety procedures, training and culture in place, it’s only a matter of time before you or your company suffers and that’s no joke!