1st February 2024
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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
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
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.
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
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
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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