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It is the responsibility of those in Health and Safety Management to ensure that everyone in the business can come to work and go home safely. Unfortunately, simply being aware of potential risks and dangers is not enough. To be truly effective in managing workplace health and safety, you need to be aware of other challenges you might face and be proactive in tackling them.
Identifying threats to safety in a complex work environment is not easy. However, there are a few common mistakes made by H&S managers which, when identified and fixed, or avoided altogether, can make safety initiatives and health and safety management far more effective.
We’ve put together a list of the dos and don’ts of workplace safety management to help you create a solid framework for health and safety in your workplaces.
To be most effective, the staff need to be fully informed. An informed workforce can respond well to changes and implement new policies quickly. Conversely, employees who are left in the dark often feel underappreciated, leading to an inconsistent response to change that may expose them to hazards.
Communicate clearly across multiple channels—from meetings and face-to-face conversations to handouts and emails. This will help ensure positive changes take root. In this case, too much communication is often better than too little.
Be consistent in discouraging unsafe behaviour and enforcing disciplinary actions. At-risk behaviours must be discouraged at all levels of the organization to ensure an ordered workforce response. If the approach is clear and consistent, you will see employees align with the same goals as the H&S department.
No matter how many hours of training are conducted or how many posters are glued to the wall, it will all be for nothing if leaders do not show initiative in exercising safety. This could be as simple as failing to wear a hard hat on a job site or encouraging employees to take shortcuts in their work that bypass safety. Practice what you preach by showing everyone how it’s done.
Increasing employee participation can include setting up safety committees, nominating employees to be subject matter experts or having workers conduct audits. All of these actions can produce far greater results than approaching it single-handedly.
Although it's easy to get distracted by key performance metrics, another mistake H&S managers make is not focusing on workplace culture. The culture of your workplace is an ideal measure of how well your organization can respond to potential safety initiatives.
To improve your workforce safety culture, focus on improving the small actions that people take daily towards safety, such as by incentivizing or recognizing good behaviour, and you will see improvements.
Knowing what to do is half the battle. Understanding what not to do will make all the difference.
Workplace safety is an ongoing journey towards continuous improvement. If areas of focus are left to fall by the wayside after being ‘taken care of’, those areas will soon become a concern once more.
To maintain momentum, you simply cannot relax and become complacent after identifying a risk and implementing a solution. The first thing to do is to recognize employees for making improvements. The second thing is to begin planning your next goal. The journey to world-class safety is never complete.
The responsibility of H&S Managers is to lead safety training to keep everyone informed and aware of safety guidelines.
However, this becomes counterproductive when the training is not thought out and is poorly conducted, limiting the knowledge and skills employees gain during the process. Quality training takes more time to develop, but the benefits are often far-reaching in terms of increased employee understanding, improved performance, and fewer accidents and incidents.
Consider ways to make these training sessions comprehensive and worthwhile such as working with a consultant or facilitator to help maximize the impact of your employee education.
An important question to ask yourself regularly is what messages are employees receiving about what is most important to the company. Sometimes, organizations do a great job of saying ‘safety first’, but a terrible job of demonstrating it. You should consider what the actions of the organization are communicating, rather than just relying on verbal communication.
You can seek employee feedback to get a better understanding of what organizational priorities are being perceived. Anonymous surveys can be a great way to get honest feedback about what employees genuinely believe is the most important.
There’s no smoke without fire. Warning signs like near misses, poor preventative maintenance planning, decreased morale, increased injuries, or increased equipment downtime can all be signs of failing systems, and lagging indicators of what is to come in the future if you do not change course with the right measures. Failure to act proactively and preventatively can seriously impact employee safety in the long run.
Work at height is littered with hazards. If the nature of your industry requires work at height often, it’s vital to plan ahead. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website is a great source of guidelines that can be very helpful in planning this type of work.
Health & Safety Managers understand the importance of employees reporting accidents, incidents, and near-misses, but a common mistake H&S managers can make is discouraging reporting by basing incentives on zero injuries or taking disciplinary action after an incident investigation. You should ensure employees feel comfortable in reporting incidents and avoid incentives based on incident-free workplaces.
Safety should be a collaborative group effort. However, some organizations still believe ‘safety’ is the job of the H&S department alone. An H&S manager needs to help the company make the cultural shift to safety as a responsibility that is owned by everyone, not just those with ‘H&S’ in their titles.
Changes can only be made when safety is valued by supervisors and managers just as much as by the H&S office.
When working to improve workplace safety, you should always focus on building on the capabilities of the organization.
Now that you are aware of the dos and don’ts of workplace safety, you know the potential pitfalls to watch out for, and you can create real change by tackling common workplace dangers that will improve employee safety and company performance.
At Kee Safety, we provide fall protection solutions and end-to-end services from consultation and site surveys to aftercare, and can assist in further reinforcing a safety culture in your company. We offer expert recommendations that are unique to you and your safety needs, enabling you to create a solid workplace safety framework, and keep your workforce safe.
For more information, call Kee Safety on 01384 632 188, or use our online contact form.