Don’t let H&S slip between the back burner and the gap behind the cooker…

Naturally enough, the COVID-19 public health crisis has taken up a lot of everybody’s time and attention and continues to do so.
However, some organisations have still managed to keep other Health and Safety (‘H&S’) issues on the back burner.

We’re all hoping for a return to ‘normality’, but in the meantime there’s still plenty of work to do to make sure we’re not putting people at risk and prepare for a more normal way of living.

Of course, I would say this wouldn’t I? But there are sound reasons to keep chipping away rather than letting things fall out of sight altogether.

Why keep going now?

Firstly, H&S systems take longer than most employers think to put in place. The old idea that it was all about quickly putting paperwork together – ‘any paperwork at all as no-one ever looks at it’ should be confined to history.

H&S systems should be as close to the truth of the standards you want to achieve as possible – yes, actually set by you rather than parrot someone else’s language (but, with the help of your ‘Competent Person’) and this takes time to produce – but worth it.

Likewise, the processes that you want your staff to follow should also reflect your real circumstances. Thiss will also take time to work on so that, not only will they be legally correct but also as meaningful and efficient as possible.

Secondly, there’s absolutely no reason that you couldn’t choose:

(a) what you want to improve – most clients start with ‘Policy’ and ‘General Risk Assessment’ as this sets the foundation, but you could choose to start with setting up an electronic risk assessment system.
(b) the pace (and therefore cost) that you want to work on the improvements

A practical example

I recently helped a client set up a weekly checklist for a Forklift truck.
The original had 27 closely typed checks, and in consultation with a manager and supervisor we cut this down to 23. Not much of a reduction, you’re thinking?

But consider that some of the 4 taken off had been there for years and weren’t actually meaningful – and one of them wasn’t even possible.
Add to that the fact that there were extra efficiencies in the new version:

  1. The checklist was re-ordered into the logical order they actually perform the checks, and in easier-to-read language.
  2. It was then converted into an electronic format so that it could be completed on any tablet.
  3. And finally they had the added security of knowing that the results would be copied automatically to the manager for checking/alerting and filed for easy-retrieval.

The above is one of many checklists they have which all need revising. The reason the whole process took a few weeks to set up was because the following steps are involved:

  • Conducting some initial analysis
  • The Zoom conference to make sure new structure and wording would fit
  • The setting up of the electronic form
  • Testing of it to make sure it works as expected
  • The short ‘in-use’ trial.

So Finally:

My advice to businesses out there thinking ‘What can we do about H&S in the current climate?’ is:

  1. Ditch any H&S retainership you’ve got in place which would have been based on the old model of a couple of visits a year from a half-interested consultant.
  2. If you’re not sure, ask yourself a simple question:
    “If I asked a management new-starter to look over my current H&S paperwork, would they be able to quickly determine what risks are relevant to our organisation and how they’re being logically tackled to achieve legal compliance (as a minimum)?” And if you’ve been employing a consultant for a while, why would the answer be ‘No’?
  3. Trust yourselves and your own judgements – alongside a more tightly controlled consultancy arrangement in order to make installing practical measures a lot easier.
  4. Keep H&S on a low, but continual, back burner and then your organisation will be a lot stronger when we come out ‘the other side’ of this pandemic.