What really matters in workplace safety

2 Replies

OHSAS18001 Risk safety

Many companies that have a Health & Safety system in place assume that they will never have an accident. They set KPIs for zero accidents but when you ask how they will achieve this objective, many haven’t really thought about it.

Ask a member of the top management about the Health & Safety Policy of the company and quite a few won’t be able to tell you much. Most don’t know how the HSE system is performing until a serious accident happens or large compensation payments have to be made. But there are things that can be done to strive for the zero accidents objective.

Start at the Top

A Health & Safety system is not the sole responsibility of the HSE Manager. But rarely do top management get involved in the implementation or even hear about how things are progressing on a daily basis, unless there’s been an incident.

Therefore, top Management must lead by example. But what does this really mean? This involves more than setting a zero accident KPI or sending out a memo to heads of department informing them that they must comply. Rarely do we see top management make regular site visit to see what controls are in place to prevent accidents and whether or not staff are working safely, or even their presence on safety committees.

Getting actively involved in these kinds of activities and listening to concerns raised will send the message that staff safety is a priority.

Train

  1. Train staff, including supervisors, to work safely.
  2. Train staff in correct operation of machinery and other equipment
  3. Train staff in the correct use and storage of PPE. I found that penalising staff for not using PPE, yes many don’t like wearing hard hats, especially in the heat, encouraged them to do so.
  4. Train staff in safety awareness

Ensure Accountability

Add Health & Safety compliance to everyone’s job description, including that of top management.

In my experience punishing staff does change their their way of working. Making them accountable for their actions also changes their way of working.  Just as nobody wants X amount deducted from their salary for not wearing PPE, if someone didn’t follow safety guidelines they would not want a report documenting it.

Encourage

Lack of supervision encourages employees to be lax with Safety. By carrying out regular inspections throughout the day, you encourage them to be more vigilant.

Encourage employees to report near misses, because these are the following mistakes that eventually lead to accidents. Eliminate reprisals with anonymous reporting.

Objectives

When setting timelines for objectives take safety into consideration. Unrealistic timelines encourage staff to hurry and thus work unsafely. Working faster doesn’t necessary mean getting the job done more quickly. In fact, machine operators who try to rush through a task are more likely to have an accident because either they do not take the time to load things safely or to fix the lifting equipment properly to that which is being lifted.

Root Cause Analysis

No matter how small an accident is, top management must ensure that it is carefully examined and prepared comprehensively.

Carry out an extensive analysis of the cause of the incident. I always found it surprising that the end result of a root cause analysis was almost always ‘human error’. This is the easiest way out and often incorrect. Even human error has a cause that should be investigated.

This article has been written by Birjees Hussain

2 comments

  1. Robert B. Eidson

    My experience has been that my continued attention to the staff’s training needs frequently produces the interest in safe working practices. When they see that I am continuously searching for a reduction in their risks, they become more involved themselves. Once that communication is established, they are more receptive to “the Safety Guy” interactions. We all know that the people who are doing the work are frequently the first to notice something that seems “not right” to them. I have been able to get the staff more involved by being receptive, discussing their thoughts, and acting on our work together. I know there is nothing new here, but it seems we have to convince them we really are interested and concerned regarding their personal safety!

    1. nickappel

      Hi Robert,

      That is absolutely great. When the team doesn’t see you as a someone who punishes them but more as the person that helps, that is truly amazing. I think most safety experts try to reach that state.

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