It’s a familiar refrain in the UK, that ‘Health and Safety has gone mad’. Health and safety legislation can be seen as a costly burden, an inhibitor to business growth, and even at times nonsensical. Obviously, the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations exist to protect employees of all UK organisations. Employers have responsibilities for the management of their risks, and to ensure adequate and appropriate risk mitigation. But in some organisations, health and safety is little more than a policy that sits on a shelf.
Here at React Specialist Cleaning, we would argue that legislation and policy is only part of the equation. Good health and safety practice requires a positive health and safety culture throughout any organisation. By creating this positive culture, employers protect their staff properly and can potentially save their lives. While changing legislation and conflicting advice can sometimes present challenges, doing the work from the ground up will make every organisation healthier and safer.
Workplace health and safety
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK workplace has become safer over time. Nevertheless, in 2017/2018, 144 people died at work, and 71,062 non-fatal injuries to employees were reported by employers. On top of that 30.7 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. As well as direct HSE figures, there is a degree of self-reporting with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
A broader measure which is increasingly being looked at is wellbeing. The figures for safety are going in the right direction but we're seeing an increase in work-related ill-health, stress, depression and anxiety. According to a recent Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) sustainability survey over 70% of organisations provide some sort of KPI report on workplace safety. But only about 40% of organisations are reporting on health and wellbeing.
Getting the health and safety culture right
Anecdotally, we know that many workers believe their organisation puts productivity above health and safety. In these same organisations, management may see things differently. So if you haven't got the right culture, compliance can be difficult to achieve.
A starting point for a positive health and safety culture must centre on assessing risks and understanding current safety management systems. If you don't get these things right, you’re not going to have sufficient risk mitigation in place to reflect reality. However well-framed your health and safety policies may be, a poor understanding of risk fundamentally undermines health and safety practice. It’s not just major hazard industries that need to be concerned about safety culture; organisations from all industry sectors need an effective safety culture.
By making safety an asset, rather than a liability, organisations can bring positive, demonstrable results throughout their business. Much of this comes down to clear lines of responsibility. But it also comes down to openness, regular review, and learning from the process. To do this, it’s a good idea to implement risk control systems, including KPIs, clear safety procedures, accident investigations, and competence assurance. Remember to get buy-in from every level, so that health and safety becomes embedded in everyday work practices.
What can go wrong with health and safety
Of course, as well as being the right thing to do, a positive health and safety culture also protects organisations legally. This has become ever more important with the 2015 change to the Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety. Now if organisations do find themselves on the wrong end of a health and safety prosecution, fines can be applied against an individual as well as an organisation. And senior management can find themselves in prison in particularly egregious cases.
In fact, there have been fewer prosecutions and prohibition notices over the past five years, implying that more and more organisations are taking health and safety seriously. However, the new guidelines have meant that, where successful prosecutions do take place, fines have gone up almost fourfold.
Practical steps for a health and safety culture
Good hygiene and environmental cleaning clearly play their part in a positive health and safety culture. It may be a question of cleaning up spills so that workers avoid slips, trips and falls. Or it may be proper disinfection in the face of biohazardous waste. Whatever the situation, we can be part of your programme of risk mitigation, to help you create a positive health and safety culture in your workplace.
Find out more about how React Specialist Cleaning can feed into your health and safety culture by contacting the team today.
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Post by Shaun D. Doak
Shaun is the Managing Director of React Specialist Cleaning. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sectors.