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Advice For Getting Workers To Engage With Health And Safety

Posted: 18/09/2019

When it comes to health and safety policies, having procedures and rules in place and thorough documentation detailing everything will only get you so far. It’s important to remember that health and safety rules and regulations exist to highlight risk, protect people, infrastructure and the level of response required and ensure your organisation is legally compliant. 

People should always be a key part in the implementation of new or updated health and safety plans, whether you’re putting together a comprehensive emergency response procedure, or running training on health and safety at your workplace.

Obtaining engagement and involvement at an early stage of health and safety policy development is likely to make them more effective. The key is to help your workers understand why certain procedures have been implemented and how failing to follow them could have serious consequences.

A recent article for Virtual College explored how businesses can promote a positive workplace culture surrounding health and safety. At the top of the list is making sure that all your employees understand why health and safety is so important.

This is particularly the case if you work in a potentially high-risk environment, such as within heavy industry, manufacturing, power generation, construction or the offshore wind sector. Tasks associated with these industries are inherently more dangerous than, for example, an office-based role, and therefore you need to make sure that everyone who works for you understands the risks and takes them seriously.

Having rules and procedures in place is the first step, and it’s an important one. But it’s important for management to take a positive approach to risk management. People should be encouraged to talk about near misses and other problems they witness.

There should be an open and honest culture that encourages people at every level of the business to learn from past incidents or safety issues, which will help to develop learner outcomes and drive improvements.

If you’ve never considered what kind of health and safety culture you have at your workplace, your first job should be to find out. Getting employees to fill in a simple questionnaire or asking them directly about their perceptions of the safety culture is a good place to start.

This can give you a baseline to work from and allow you to identify any gaps in provision, training or awareness that could present a problem.

The news provider stressed that it’s important to understand that changing this kind of culture will take time. Every business should have a long-term plan to help alter perceptions and ultimately to make workers see health and safety as a positive, rather than a negative, aspect of their work environment.

Management staff need to take the lead in this cultural transformation. They need to be seen to be adhering to any health and safety rules that are in place, as well as to be approachable so that employees can report any issues they notice and have the confidence that something will change as a result.

Taking tangible action when someone reports an issue is essential, the news site stated. This action can take many forms. It might involve introducing a new procedure or set of rules that covers an area that was previously overlooked.

It could mean amending existing rules to better reflect the workplace. This is especially important as working practices and technology evolve. Or it could include running additional or new training for existing as well as new members of staff.

Allocating appropriate resources to your company’s health and safety is also essential. Depending on the nature and size of your business what resources you allocate will vary. Introducing a dedicated health and safety officer should be a serious consideration.

Additional resources and budget may include improved or new staff training, as well as into equipment that will keep people safe when working in hostile or potentially dangerous environments.

Planning and Building Control Today recently pointed out that the UK’s construction sector is among those that need to take a close look at its health and safety track record. The news provider cited figures from the latest labour force survey, which is published annually by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The figures for 2017/18 showed that, within construction, there were 555,000 injuries at work, 144 of which were fatal. This means that the injury rate in the sector stands at 2.6 per cent of construction workers suffering an injury in those 12 months. This is considerably higher than the average of 1.8 per cent of workers who are injured across all industries.

Focusing on the negative impact for workers is one way to get them to understand the importance of the health and safety procedures you put in place. But as a business, you need to understand the commercial consequences of having a poor injury rate and the perception of your organisation bring a responsible employer.

The news provider noted that the construction industry in the UK lost 2.4 million working days during 2017/18. That’s the equivalent of 10,000 construction workers taking a full year away from their jobs.

It’s not only businesses that should care about these figures either. It’s estimated that this absence rate equated to a £1.06 billion loss, which also means substantial losses to the British economy.

The publication offered some advice on how to improve the health and safety culture within a construction business. First up is to communicate with everyone. “Being open and honest with your employees about why new changes are being implemented at work is the easiest way to help them understand the necessity,” it stated.

Another key, particularly for the construction sector, is to provide mental health support. “By providing further education and creating an environment that employees feel safe to open up and speak their mind, your workers will develop their own support system to protect each other’s mental health and wellbeing,” the site added.

If you’re looking for some inspiration on how exactly to improve the health and safety culture in your workplace, it may be worthwhile taking a look at some of the winners of the International Safety Awards that are recognised by the British Safety Council every year.

Now in their 62nd year, the organisation recently added new categories to the awards, enabling more businesses than ever before to put themselves forward and be recognised for their efforts in improving workplace health and safety, Politics Home reported.

Among the new awards introduced in 2019 were the James Tye Award and the Health and Safety Transformation Award. The former provides recognition for any individual or team that has run a campaign that has had a “significant impact on health, safety or wellbeing in the workplace”.

The Health and Safety Transformation Award, meanwhile, honours organisations that have used the information to significantly change any element of health, safety or wellbeing.

Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, Mike Robinson, told the news provider that the organisation is “constantly revising and developing the International Safety Awards to keep them relevant to businesses worldwide and to motivate companies to achieve the highest standards of health, safety and wellbeing”.

If you feel that walking away with one of these awards could help boost staff morale and show them how they can continue towards promoting a positive health and safety culture in your workplace, make sure you apply before the deadline in February 2020.

They are a great opportunity to share your achievements with other organisations not only in the UK but throughout the world. Recognition for the efforts of everyone on your team could also be what’s required to maintain their involvement and to push for innovations and improvements in workplace health and safety.

The results of the 2020 International Safety Awards will be unveiled in March next year.