How do you organise for Health and Safety?

Guest blog written by Liz O’Brien at Terra Firma 360.

When you have tons to do, lots of paperwork, people, meetings and just general everyday work things, it can be so easy to put things on the back burner.

Everything begins to feel like a tick box exercise and more stuff to contribute to the “jobs for the boys.” But what we begin to lose sight of is why we have Health and Safety laws in the first place. The purpose is to prevent people from getting injured or killed in the workplace. We can start to become unable to see the benefits due to the perceived extra work to ensure that your company is compliant.

So, let’s look at how a Health and Safety system can really benefit your business.

There are various systems that you can choose to use. In regard to ISO standards the new system is ISO 45001. It has been designed to be integrated into your company’s current system, so that Health and Safety is not just an added bolt on that gets squeezed in as an afterthought. It has been designed with input from experts throughout 70 countries and takes a risk-based approach. The system focuses on planning and continual improvement i.e. learning from mistakes and being flexible enough to change with your business and legislation.

By using an ISO 45001 standard you have a clearly structured approach to safety which helps you to implement Health and Safety in your company. You can choose other systems that don’t have such a structured approach, but when you’re busy and not entirely sure what you’re meant to do, having a system can really help. Plus, all certified systems require an external auditor to check that you are compliant, which is a reassurance for you, and it will help you to fix any gaps.

Let’s talk about the Plan, Do, Check, Act. This is the standard structure of a Health and Safety system.

First things first.

Plan – What are you going to do and how are you going to do it?

This bit is important because you need to make sure that you design a system that not only works for your business but can be understood by everyone you need to have involved.

How to get planning,

  1. Find out where you are now- perhaps arrange an audit which can be done by your team or get external help from a professional safety consultant.
  2. Decide what you want to achieve, some examples may include reduced accidents, to gain more business or to make Health and Safety tasks easier for your employees.
  3. Write a plan showing what you want to achieve with Health and Safety in your organisation.
  4. How are you going to check all the stuff you plan for is working?
  5. What are your foreseeable emergencies and how are you going to plan for and manage them should the worst happen?
  6. How are you going to identify what legislation is applicable to your company, and how are you going to stay on top of any changes?

How does this help?

Like anything, if you plan ahead you can plan time and resources and distribute the workload so that Health and Safety is well spread out throughout the working year. It can also help to organise for projects, changes in your business and keeping the Health and Safety message consistent.

Do – If it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but if it is…!

Get out there and risk profile your company, look at what has happened and what could happen.  You can do this by looking at accident reports, ill health/sick days taken, and then you can carry out risk assessments and look at what the hazards and risks are. You should also look at what is working, are there things already in place and how to keep on making them work?

Look at who’s going to be involved and find out if your plan will work by speaking to your team. Look at dates, when do you want things done, how often and will it ensure compliance or are you going a bit overboard?

Get the resources sorted during this phase so that everyone has the correct things for the tasks required, whether it be tools, equipment, knowledge.

Then get out there and do all the good stuff such as risk training, inspections and risk assessments etc. Make it engaging for your team by giving them interesting training and assigning responsibilities, and most of all keep communicating. Your team are your eyes and ears on the floor, so tap into this invaluable resource.

Check – Is what you’re doing worth it?

There’s no point in doing things that don’t work, and it’s important to find them out so you can fix it. It’s not a good idea to just look through the paperwork either, because actions speak louder than words.

Actions are what Health and Safety management is primarily about, but within a world where everything has to be recorded to show that a company has been diligent, paperwork can get messy and it can be hard to track down vital documentation or identify responsibilities for doing things.

Check things before the worst happens e.g. an accident, be proactive and look at improvements required. A business can never tell how good their safety performance is based on accident data alone, because you can’t tell if they’ve been running on luck. I’d never approve a sub-contractor that told me they have had no accidents for the past three years, not even a bruise, because it would scream out that they have a poor safety management system in place or a poor safety culture.

As well as monitoring the proactive things you’re doing, such as the amount of training, risk assessments, workplace inspection, it’s really important to measure what has gone wrong. A reactive performance indicator is measuring things such as accidents, illness, complaints and much more, basically any loss to the business due to a gap in your Health and Safety system.

It’s then a matter of balancing the sets of data and finding out what is and isn’t working well in your business.

As part of your planning, you should decide what you want to measure and how you are going to celebrate your successes and fix the losses.

Act – Go and fix it

Learn from the checks that you’ve carried out, such as audits and risk assessments that you’ve completed, find out how much you’ve done well and look at what hasn’t gone quite to plan. Put all of your data together and give your management system a good sense check and go right back to the beginning and plan how to improve things.

The bonus is, and may not be viewed as a bonus to some, is that when you are operating an ISO standard you need to have an external audit by the certification body. This is quite motivating, afterall no one likes to fail, and teams will make sure that they follow the system because they don’t want to be the one to let the side down.

In a nutshell, an ISO system helps you to follow a tried and trusted system that thousands of other companies have tried. ISO systems are designed to streamline your current and future processes, to make your workflow more productive and streamlined. A system will give you a better standing with your clients and instil a greater depth of confidence in your business.

For more information- contact Assent.


Liz O'Brien
Liz O'Brien
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