Taking a proactive approach to health and safety

Taking a proactive approach to health and safety
Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

Posted: Mon 16th Oct 2023

Once you know what to look for when it comes to health and safety, it's like patching up holes in a boat.

This proactive approach not only keeps your team safe and your business running smoothly but also makes sure you're following the rules.

In this blog, we'll break down the basics of this approach to make health and safety simple, so you can protect your business and create a safer, better future.

Can I eliminate the problem?

This should always be your first control. If you can change a process, or the use of a certain product, then do it. But if you can't get rid of the hazard, look to the "Swiss cheese model" for inspiration.

In the Swiss cheese model of health and safety, the incident occurs when holes appear in all of our defensive measures. If we're lucky, it's a near miss (with no loss incurred). If we're not so lucky, the result may be a life-changing injury to a member of staff or the public.

The control measures need to exist in a hierarchy. You should always prioritise engineering controls, then administrative (procedural) controls and, finally, behavioural ones.

1. Engineering controls

They are those that you can touch and feel. For example, the guarding on a machine, a fire door, or a fixed barrier to stop you from stepping out in front of a vehicle.

2. Administrative controls

They are anything that's written down. This would cover your risk assessments, permit-to-work systems, standard operating procedures, accident reporting and investigation systems.

3. Behavioural controls

They are your soft skills and include the culture of your organisation. You can also include:

4. Mitigating actions

Finally, these are ways to stop the situation from becoming worse. For instance, making sure you have qualified first-aiders on site, or using spill kits to stop a contaminated substance spreading into a waterway.

The buck stops with you

As the owner or director of your business, one of your many jobs is to continually monitor what's happening within your company. This is a legal requirement under section 2.2.C of the Health and Safety at Work Act you have to make sure that you inform, instruct, train and supervise your employees.

You should be continually looking for where the holes are appearing in your procedures, or for where they could be about to appear.

Examples might include the following:

  • Taking on a new member of staff: The hole here is perhaps that you're employing a young person who doesn't know the rules.

  • Moving into that new building you've been working towards for the last two years: The hole here might be figuring out how vehicles will move in the service yard, or sharing the premises with other users.

  • Winning that new contract which means you need to buy new equipment: The hole could be deciding who's going to service and maintain that equipment once you have it.

If you do all of the above, you're well on the way to having a safe and secure business and workforce. Which should be sweet music to your ears!

Relevant resources

Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

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