Managing Health and Safety: Streamlining the process

Managing health and safety as a process involves setting a policy, creating a supportive organisational culture, developing and implementing a health and safety plan and evaluating the plan’s performance.
Previously we have talked about what is required in a plan but evaluating the plan’s performance is just as important.  In order to take this further it is important that as a business owner you understand fully the benefits and issues relating to the process.

Advantages: Managing Health and Safety

Managing health and safety effectively not only ensures you meet legislative requirements but also;

  • decreases the risk of injury and ill health
  • reduces lost staff time
  • contributes to the well-being of the organisation and its workers
  • improves corporate image and averts negative PR (publicity)
  • contributes towards a programme of continuous improvement

Disadvantages: Managing Health and Safety

The benefits of managing the process far outweigh the disadvantages but managing health and safety properly does;

  • take up time
  • use resources that you may not feel you have
  • require constant review and updating

The key to success is developing an effective policy that minimises health and safety risks to employees and others.  The following steps help negate any disadvantages and ensures as a manager you are in control of the process.

1.Creating the right policy

Key actions at this point include;

  • undertaking a health and safety risk assessment to identify areas that need attention and monitoring
  • familiarising yourself and colleagues with relevant up to date legislation
  • giving the health and safety policy the same priority as your other organisational goals
  • allocating responsibilities for creating, reviewing and revising policy and procedures
  • resourcing health and safety adequately using a separate budget if appropriate (IE fire safety training or in-house first aid development)

2.Create a positive health and safety culture

Creating a culture that motivates and involves all members of your organisation is key to health and safety.  All employees need to think “safety first” and consider good working practices that include health and safety as a natural part of their working life.  As a manager it is your responsibility to build in that awareness to any programme or training.  Actions that aid the development of your health and safety culture include;

  • appointing health and safety representatives (champions) to raise the profile and add value to the project.  These individuals will help not only enhance your basic strategy but also drive the project forward
  • setting health and safety objectives and performance standards for all staff
  • providing adequate information on health and safety to all staff
  • keeping all documentation and available information up to date
  • involving employees and champions at all stages of the process – from planning through to implementation and then beyond into the monitoring and review process
  • rewarding employees for good health and safety practice
  • including health and safety as an agenda item at management meetings and internal team meetings.  (If they are aware that it is a continuous process and is a regular item on any agendas they will not only feel part of the process but also appreciate their need to take note).

3.Develop the plan

You need to:

  • produce a written plan for health and safety, co-ordinating and scheduling all health and safety activities in a single programme.
  • identify clear objectives and standards
  • set measurable targets at all levels
  • consider all personnel and all the processes in the business
  • review the plan and processes regularly.  Build this in to the plan at the beginning to save time later
What to consider for your Health and Safety plan:
  • accident prevention – considering severe hazards such as chemicals and radiation as well as more common hazards such as heavy lifting, manual lifting and trailing electrical leads
  • health problems of employees – including drug addiction and alcoholism
  • emergency procedures – fire drills, equipment shutdown, security procedures and building evacuation
  • at risk identification – identifying and setting out separate procedures for those particularly at risk – disabled workers, pregnant women and your employees
  • physical working conditions – covering areas such as stress reduction, shift working, rest breaks, identifying bullying in the workplace (and prevention)
  • good health promotion – exercise and healthy diet advice

If you are a sub-contractor you may also need to consider extending your arrangements to contractors as well as suppliers.  Any failings on their end may also impact your organisation.  To control this you might want to introduce a written policy that any third party needs to sign up to as well as put in place penalties for non-compliance.  Assuming that their health and safety is up to scratch isn’t the best way to minimise issues in your organisation so where you deal with third parties on site, make sure they are aware of the practices you have in place and assign representatives to ensure protocol is followed.
Wider consideration also needs to be taken to customers and visitors to your premises.  Adequate signage is sensible and where possible (if you are a larger organisation) introduce health and safety inductions.

4. Performance Monitoring

Once a plan has been implemented you need to evaluate its effectiveness.  Performance can be measure both proactively and reactively.  Proactive measures include;

  • inspecting workspace regularly
  • evaluating your training processes
  • discussing elements of safety with staff (as well as concerns)
  • reviewing relevant portions of minutes from management meetings and team briefings
  • auditing your processes to ensure the monitoring systems are in place and are efficient

Reactive measures can include;

  • checking damage to property
  • examining data collected after incidents (accident books, sickness records, suggestion boxes)

5. Review performance

Evaluating performance of any plan enables you to ensure your policy and overall health and safety strategy is working as required.  By reviewing performance of the plan you are able to react to potential future threats and remove some of the risk that may be associated.  The evaluation process should include;

  • validating findings by talking to staff
  • comparing findings to objectives and legislative standards
  • giving feedback to staff
  • seeking commitment to improvements by “champions” and those they are responsible for
  • changing your policy and procedures to reflect any finding with a particular focus on any high-risk areas.

The monitoring and review sections of this step by step guide is a continuous process that should have annual reviews built in as part of an ongoing health and safety programme.  By doing so you minimise time spent on the processes and more importantly risk is reduced accordingly.  A plan that involves all staff is always more effective than one implemented by a single individual.  Spend time building this into any organisation strategy and the benefits will be a more efficient workplace with employees that feel valued and is more likely to be healthy.
Further resources on Managing Health and Safety:
TutorCare Health and Safety Training
British Safety Council – Managing Health and Safety
Health and Safety executive
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
*Article prepared using checklists from Bloomsbury Business Database (2002)

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