December 9, 2015

Health & Safety: It makes business sense

Effective management of Health & Safety can save up to 50% of your insurance costs, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

A recent case study from the HSE showed how a relatively small construction site managed to reduce its insurance costs by around 50%.

This was achieved by creating a positive Health & Safety culture and ensuring employee engagement.

All too often a Health & Safety policy is seen as a bit of paper on the staff notice board and the management of health and safety is an additional chore to be managed solely by the Health & Safety Manager.

This demonstrates that effectively implementing your Health & Safety policy and creating a positive attitude and culture around the subject can benefit the business financially.

Other benefits associated with a positive attitude towards health and safety include;

  • fewer accidents
  • reduced costs
  • reduced risks
  • lower employee absence and turnover rates
  • lessened threat of legal action
  • improved standing among suppliers and partners
  • better reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities
  • increased productivity, because employees are healthier, happier and better motivated

What is a Health and Safety Culture?

In 1993, the then Health and Safety Commission defined ‘safety culture’ as “the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management”

Therefore to achieve a positive health and safety culture the group, everyone in the business, needs to:

  • have a positive attitude towards health and safety
  • perceive and believe that health and safety is important,
  • be competent to fulfil their role
  • exhibit a commitment to health and safety and lead by example

How to measure a Health & Safety Culture

Health & Safety cultures are often measured on a 5 tier scale:

Level 1 – Emerging 

The early stages of developing a Health & Safety culture including the development of Director and Management commitment.

Level 2 – Managing

Managers are committed to health and safety and directing their teams to work in a safe manner.

Level 3 – Involving

Having committed to a Health & Safety policy the organisation is now working with frontline staff to develop personal responsibility at all levels.

Level 4 – Co-operating

Managers and staff are all taking responsibility for health and safety and there is co-operation between all levels.  There is full commitment to improving safety.

Level 5 – Continually Improving 

Avoiding complacent attitudes to avoid falling backwards and learning from near miss and other incidents to ensure continual improvement.

Achieving a Positive Safety Culture

A positive safety culture has 3 key elements:

  • hazards are effectively controlled by suitable working practises and rules
  • the is a positive attitude towards managing compliance and reducing risk
  • the business has the willingness and ability to learn from near misses and other indicators.

Controlling hazard with effective rules and working practices

This is the core to managing health and safety in any business.  Employers have a legal duty to identify work activities or practises that could result in a person being injured or suffering ill health effects.

Employers are then required to put in place control measures, safe working procedures and safety rules to protect staff and others who may be affected by these activities.

Creating a positive attitude towards compliance and risk reduction

Policies, Procedures and Safe Working practices will only be effective if staff implement them in the required way.

Staff members need to understand why they are being asked to undertake work in a specific way.  In addition Businesses leaders and managers need to behave in a way which encourages employees to work in a safe way.

It is imperative that managers talk about the safety precautions in a positive manner and do not portray the often seen attitude of ‘Health and Safety said we must do it this way’.

The following statements both require staff to wear hearing protection but one portrays a more positive message.

  • ‘Operators MUST wear Hearing Protection’
  • ‘Noise levels in this area are likely to cause long term hearing loss.  To protect your hearing we require staff working in this area to wear hearing protection.’

To support these statements managers must then lead by example wearing hearing protection when working in these areas otherwise staff members are likely to follow bad practises exhibited by management.

Demonstrating a willingness to learn from near misses and other safety indicators

An effective audit and monitoring systems must be in place to identify possible areas of improvement.  Employees need to feel confident that errors and mistakes will not be automatically punishable, otherwise any monitoring regime will be hampered by an unwillingness to co-operate.

Whilst it is unrealistic to adopt a ‘no blame’ culture employers need to avoid a ‘blame culture’  Employees need to feel they are able to report near miss incidents or report bad practice to management if lessons are to be learnt.

Safety Climate Safety Tools

There are a number of Safety Climate Safety Tools which can help businesses measure their Safety Culture.

Employers can start by considering:

  • how effectively they lead on health and safety,  Do Directors demonstrate a commitment to health and safety on the shop floor;
  • how do staff demonstrate a commitment to health and safety- do they attend course because they see a benefit or because they are told to;
  • are all levels of the workforce involved equally in the health and safety management process or is it a ‘we say and you do’ approach;
  • how well do employees look after the safety of themselves and others around them;
  • is there an unhealthy acceptance of risk as just being ‘part of the job’;
  • are audits and monitoring regimes adequate and does the company learn from any issues they identify

Summary

Health & Safety isn’t the responsibility of one or two employees in the organisation it is a responsibility that falls on all from the Managing Director to managers and employees.  These responsibilities are detailed in legislation.

However, a company with a positive health and safety culture will ensure that all employees are responsible for health and safety because it is the right thing to do not because legislation dictates this.

Only by encouraging staff engagement and participation in managing health and safety can employers really hope to move forward and embed good practice into daily routine.

At this point employers will start to see;-

  • Reduced accident rate,
  • Less absence from injury and illness,
  • Improved productivity and
  • Better financial performance

By Phil Barker

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About the author

Philip Barker

Philip has worked for Moorepay for over nine years, starting as a Health & Safety Consultant in February 2008 before taking up the position of Consultancy Manager in January 2015. Coming from a retail background, both as a store manager and health & safety professional, he already had a good cross industry experience. Working at Moorepay has provided an opportunity to broaden both knowledge and experience across a wide range of industry sectors. Philip started his health & safety career after a number of years managing retail stores and holds a HNC in Environmental Health Studies, a Diploma in Environmental Policy and a NEBOSH Diploma.