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Is Health and Safety Overdue an Overhaul?

In our latest guest blog, Jo Thompson, Sales and Marketing Director at CRAMS discusses a 21st century approach to Health and Safety management.

The employee’s friend or foe?

The implementation of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) in 1974 forced employers to take responsibility for the health and safety of their team, and whilst the death toll had been on a steady decline, it’s remained broadly flat for the past five years.

147 workers died in accidents at work during 2018/19 and it was found that most of these deaths could have been avoided had robust health and safety measures been in place. 

Yet despite this, health and safety is deemed to be an unwelcome nuisance in some workplaces. People still roll their eyes at the measures put in place to keep them safe and to protect their wellbeing.

It’s time to change

When we consider the possible causes, the one thing that stands out is that the evolution of health and safety management has stagnated.

Production now operates at breakneck pace; the average workforce has become ever more diverse and the HASAWA has forced businesses to start assessing and mitigating risk they might never have previously given much thought. Managers must also consider mental as well as physical health, and as business processes become more complicated, so too does the task of evaluating the associated risks. Meanwhile, the staff responsible for health and safety are running around trying to pull together workplace compliance with archaic systems and resources.

It’s simply no wonder that we continue to fail.

In order for businesses to be more agile, many have introduced automation to help manage various processes - however, health and safety management often misses out. Until this shortcoming is addressed, we’ll be stuck in this dangerous in-between.

45 years of consistency

It may be important for us to compare where health and safety management is now compared to where we started in 1974. The unfortunate truth is that we’ve not come as far as you’d expect, with the most common health and safety systems still paper-based. Essentially, risk assessments and method statements are typed up, then copied/printed, before being distributed for signatures and gathered back to be stored. Once filed, everything needs to be diarised for review, then edited and repeated. When a new starter joins, the process starts again and regular reviews are necessary.

There’s also a requirement to keep track of training records and manage refresher dates, collate and update Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) product safety data sheets, log and review accident and incident reports and to carry out dynamic risk assessments on a daily basis. A company does not have to grow very much before compliance management requires the full-time attention of a member of staff.

Support networks

The HSE are doing all they can to support businesses with compliance. They provide free resources through their website and have an active social media presence, used to engage with businesses and share vital safety updates.

They also share every case they investigate on their website, along with details of the findings and sentencing. In 2016, new sentencing guidelines were released which sees UK businesses paying fines than ever for non-compliance. The HSE now boasts a 95% success rate in cases they take to court, and have become a force to be reckoned with.

That said, what is clear is that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) don’t want people to fail.

Their mission is to help keep the world of work safe. They operate fairly, transparently and with compassion for all, providing enough step-by-step instruction that businesses should find it simple to stay compliant.

The missing piece?

If we have the full support of the HSE, who seem to share all the information, knowledge and resources we require, what is it that keeps tripping us up?

Our belief is that it’s a mixture of both poor health and safety culture, and inefficient, rigid management systems. It’s time to give health and safety a long overdue makeover, and software can be key to achieving that.

So let’s start by tackling culture.

The root of the problem

The key reasons people cite for poor health and safety culture are typically all related to management. They see it as red tape, or a tick box exercise, and that’s because they only know it as such. They understand that when work is stopped due to health and safety, they have to wait until someone comes rushing over with something to sign, wear or use. Very little explanation is offered before they’re able to get back to it. There’s nothing efficient or innovative about this approach - staff are often not included in the conversations regarding the whys.

However, there’s a better and more engaging way. CRAMS is a cloud-based health and safety software solution designed to be accessible on mobile devices. If there’s a dynamic risk it can be updated from a staff members’ phone or laptop, sent to management for real time approval and then back to the staff member for acknowledgement. This process can be completed in minutes, something that health and safety managers were only able to dream of until recently.

Creating collaborative compliance

When employees start using our software they’re encouraged to comment on documents they’re reading, or to report an issue they might have discovered. They see that it’s not a tick box exercise so much as a collaborative effort, and they’re now being given a chance to take ownership of their own safety. They can also access e-learning, toolbox talks and policies from any location, perfect for when they finish a job early, as they’re able to use that time productively rather than spend it driving back to the office.

CRAMS will also actively encourage them to report accidents, incidents and hazards. Not in an accident book that no one but its co-authors are likely to open, but in a real-time system that sends the report to management for immediate review. Even hazards that have since been resolved can be reported for review, encouraging staff to raise concerns so that management can put corrective measures in place.

The last department on paper

The 21st century employee manages their life through their mobile phone and their favourite apps, so it should come as no surprise that if you allow them to manage their health and safety on their phone, they’re going to be easier to engage.

Meanwhile, the health and safety department can finally take their first coffee break in 45 years as the software manages document distribution, acknowledgement tracking, review dates and the authorisation of risk assessments, method statements and policies. It’s also tracking refresher dates for training, auto-enrolling staff on required courses and can help find someone on-site who’s qualified to carry out a specific task.

It won’t make your health and safety team redundant, but rather it will give them time to go out and review actual working conditions. It will help them train, manage, guide and educate. It will take care of the admin while the people you employed to keep your workforce safe, keep your workforce safe.

Interested in writing a guest blog for BEF? To discuss your ideas, thoughts or views please email Shaun.

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