When the subject of Health & Safety (H&S) at work arises, it’s all too easy to focus on procedures, paperwork and regulations, while forgetting what’s at the very foundation of it – accident prevention.
Accident prevention is at the core of why H&S is so important.
This is apparent when we look at the impact on accident prevention of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974:
• Between 1974 and 2015: fatal injuries to employees have fallen by 86%.
• Between 1974 and 2011/12: reported non-fatal injuries have fallen by 77%.
Accident prevention isn’t about being risk-averse; it’s about being safe. And according to RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), action on accident prevention encourages resilience, resourcefulness and self-reliance.
Looking at those statistics, it’s clear that we’re all getting better at making workplaces safer. But accidents still happen. Most accidents are avoidable, so we’ve put together six simple steps that will help you to keep your staff free from harm.
This is at the top of the list for a very good reason – it’s important to get worker involvement from the outset.
Involving your workforce not only helps you to identify risks that you might otherwise have missed, but it also ensures that you get the buy-in of your teams when you implement any strategies to minimise risk. And of course, it will help you to create strategies make sense for the people who have to use them.
So, start by communicating with your workers before you begin your risk assessment, telling them that you’re planning on improving accident prevention and value their input. Initial feedback can make all of the next steps more efficient, more accurate and ultimately give a better result.
Use whatever communication method works best in your organisation. Perhaps start by issuing a text or email asking for any thoughts, ideas or identified risks that they feel should be part of the new accident prevention plan.
Risk assessment begins with risk profiling. Your risk profile should include:
Once you have these details in place you can start to build your risk assessment. Having identified possible risks through profiling, accident prevention is then established by clear, practical actions to minimise those risks.
Every organisation is different in terms of what the risks are and best methods to prevent those accidents occurring. It can be very useful to draw on the experience of other organisations but do remember that there’s no ‘off the peg’ method – you will need to augment best practice elsewhere with the realities of your own particular workplace.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) provides excellent guides to risk assessment, which are available online. There are separate titles for:
Accident prevention can often involve:
When this is the case, it must be clear as to who is responsible for making sure that rules, systems and processes are adhered to.
This is particularly important in businesses such as construction, where there is likely to be a high staff turnover. You may have new staff on a weekly basis and each one will need to understand the procedures you’ve put in place. Someone needs to be responsible and you should have a plan in place to ensure that when one person leaves, another responsible person takes over immediately.
It’s important to remember that alongside these clear lines of responsibility you should also issue a clear message that everyone is responsible at all times. When it comes to health & safety and accident prevention, everyone has a role to play in ensuring that they and those around them, are safe.
Accidents are particularly prevalent when someone is in a rush or trying to cut corners. This is true anywhere – at home, on the roads and at work.
Send a clear message to staff that safety is paramount and that no matter what the pressures may be, safety cannot be sacrificed in order to meet a deadline or satisfy a demanding client. Staff who are weighing up whether to cut a corner to get the job done on time or miss the deadline, but do the work safely, should know that they will always be supported in doing the latter.
Similarly, trying save money or stay within budget can bring the temptation to cut corners that have a safety implication. Don’t do it. An accident could ultimately cost you far more. Not just in financial terms but also in reputation and human suffering.
For high risk occupations such as construction, engineering and farming, the process of preventing accidents is closely linked to employee competence and experience.
Be vigilant about checking that all staff are fully and correctly trained to carry out the tasks allocated to them. Ensure that training and qualifications are fully up to date by monitoring the certificates held by each employee and initiating further training when necessary.
Ensuring correct training and certification may seem ripe for oversight in businesses with high staff turnover and temporary contracts. However, you can make the process simple by using an online system, such as induct.me to manage the process for you. All information on competence, training and certification can be added to your system prior to each new staff member’s arrival, so that that you’re clear from day one.
The majority of businesses will be able to create their own plans and procedures for preventing accidents, based on the steps outlined above.
However, those organisations which carry out complex or hazardous processes may need to engage a specialist to confirm that appropriate safety procedures are in place.
When engaging an external consultant, it’s important to remember that you cannot devolve the responsibility for health and safety to others. Using advisers does not absolve the employer from responsibilities for health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other relevant statutory provisions.