The heart of good health and safety practice

At the heart of good health and safety practice is an effective approach to management through the plan, do, check and act cycle*.

Where health and safety becomes an integral part of your business model many benefits are gained in addition to avoiding potential costly consequences of failure to do so. This only needs to be proportionate to the size and scope of the business, so for smaller organisations a simple but comprehensive solution will be appropriate.

A full health and safety audit can form a valuable part of this process. Indeed, if you are unsure of where to start or what is required, then an initial inspection and audit can be carried out as an invaluable starting point. A realistic assessment of current standing across your organisation will result in setting achievable targets and actions within a sensible time frame.

Where an existing framework already exists in management of health and safety then an audit can provide additional support as external assessment. Inspections and audits can be designed to cover specific areas where competence may be required such as fire safety, chemicals, etc.

The main benefits provided for management of health and safety are generally covered in 3 areas; moral, legal and financial.

Legal

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (or HASAWA for short) legal requirements are imposed on employers and controllers of workplaces. In short, requirements are to ensure that persons are not harmed during their work, or others, by acts or omissions. This extends to any substances, environments and hazards where persons may be in potential contact during their duties. Specific regulations also place duties on employers (and employees) for different types of work and hazards e.g. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) also place specific duties on owners and managers to ensure persons are protected from harm through operations of a business or premises. These include policies and procedures, risk assessments, information, arrangements and assistance. If you have 5 or more employees, these must be in written form.

Moral and financial

Society places a moral duty on persons in control to ensure that no-one is harmed or suffers ill health through work. This is termed ‘duty of care’ and failure to effectively protect employees and others from reasonably foreseeable death, injury or ill health is backed up by the legal standing of health and safety law.

There are many positive benefits to embracing health and safety as an integral part of your business.

These are not limited to:

  • Improved workforce morale leading to a more effective staff, reduced time off and reduced turnover rates.
  • A positive business image and reputation.
  • Reduced chances of accidents or ill-health to avoid costly fines, time spent investigating and complying with notices. In the worst-case scenario, imprisonment can result.
  • Reduction in insurance premiums from avoiding claims and demonstrating good practice.
  • Peace of mind that the business is complying with legal requirements.
  • Avoiding damage to equipment, machinery and premises.
  • Ensuring staff are on board and have the required information, instruction, supervision and training to effectively perform their roles.

*The plan, do, check, act approach achieves a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management. It also treats health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a stand-alone system.

Plan

  • Think about where you are now and where you need to be
  • Say what you want to achieve, who will be responsible for what, how you will achieve your aims, and how you will measure your success. You may need to write down this policy and your plan to deliver it 
  • Decide how you will measure performance. Think about ways to do this that go beyond looking at accident figures – look for leading as well as lagging indicators.  
  • Consider fire and other emergencies. Co-operate with anyone who shares your workplace and co-ordinate plans with them
  • Remember to plan for changes and identify any specific legal requirements that apply to you

Do

  • Identify your risk profile
    • Assess the risksidentify what could cause harm in the workplace, who it could harm and how, and what you will do to manage the risk
    • Decide what the priorities are and identify the biggest risks
  • Organise your activities to deliver your plans
    In particular, aim to:
    • Involve workers and communicate, so that everyone is clear on what is needed and can discuss issues – develop positive attitudes and behaviours
    • Provide adequate resources, including competent advice where needed
  • Implement your plan
    • Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place
    • Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained
    • Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work
    • Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed

Check

  • Measure your performance
    • Make sure that your plans have been implemented, ‘paperwork’ on its own is not a good performance measure
    • Assess how well the risks are being controlled and if you are achieving your aims. In some circumstances formal audits may be useful
  •  Investigate the causes of accidents, incidents or near misses

Act

  • Review your performance
    • Learn from accidents and incidents, ill-health data, errors and relevant experience, including from other organisations
    • Revisit plans, policy documents and risk assessments to see if they need updating
  • Take action on lessons learned, including from audit and inspection reports

Source: Health & Safety Executive

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Richard Lunn

Richard is a committed health and safety professional with a mission to make safety sensible, practical and understandable. He has a comprehensive background in pharmaceutical research and development and has acted as a springboard for continuing training, development and delivery in health and safety. These are wide ranging and variable which is both challenging and rewarding leading to improvements in health and safety culture in addition to legal compliance. This helps clients achieve peace of mind and confidence in ensuring their business is successfully navigating the potential minefield of health and safety.