Good morning everyone, and thank you to the organisers for inviting me to speak at today’s CPI biennial health and safety conference.
I see that you have a substantial programme covering important health and safety topics, and I am glad to see colleagues from HSE and HSL involved.
As ever when it comes to health and safety though, it is the involvement, engagement and drive of the individuals in the companies, industries and organisations like CPI that will make the difference to improving health and safety in your workplaces.
And I want you to go away from this conference not just with ideas, but with determination to continue to drive improvement in this industry.
I welcome the fact that the Paper and Board Industry Advisory Committee – or PABIAC as most of you will know it – is launching a new health and safety strategy. And its tagline ‘Health and Safety – It’s more than just a paper exercise’ is very apt – and I don’t just mean the clever pun!
Because if there is one thing you take away from what I say today, I want it to be that health and safety is not about bureaucracy, it is not about what looks good on paper – it is clearly identifying the real health and safety risks that your businesses face, and taking action to manage them.
Easy to say of course, not so easy to do in practice. But it isn’t rocket science either.
The PABIAC strategy plays a role here in helping companies in the industry identify key health and safety issues that many in the sector may face, as well as means of measuring progress – and of sharing good practice among yourselves.
Before I touch on the new strategy, it is a useful time to take stock of what was achieved during the period of the 2012-2014 PABIAC strategy.
There have been notable improvements – a 50% improvement to the injury rate in paper making and tissue; and the paper sector as a whole saw a 34% reduction in injuries.
So well done to you all for your efforts in achieving these improvements.
But across the whole of the paper industry there is still scope for considerable improvement, and there are areas of concern – for example the 65% increase in injuries reported in the recovered paper sector. Although notably better than the Waste and Recycling Sector as a whole, a significant increase in injuries is not something any of us should take lightly, it needs to be tackled to make sure the trend is reversed and there is a return to previous good performance and to demonstrate the same sort of improvement the rest of this sector is achieving.
The new PABIAC strategy sets out to tackle three important health and safety issues for the paper industries:
Let’s be clear that these are not the only areas where action is required in individual businesses but they are the ones where the sector as a whole can work together and collectively report on progress being made overall
Targets can be useful, and being able to measure progress is important, but when it comes to achieving or bettering targets, I challenge all of you here today to aim high, to ensure you aim to achieve lasting sustainable improvement that is as least as good as the targets you’ve set. There should be no reason why the targets in the strategy can’t be comfortably beaten.
Achieving better health and safety, through managing real risks, will deliver huge benefit – in terms of less harm and suffering to your workforce and financially to the bottom line – so it’s not a case of only being able to afford a certain level of health and safety – it’s about having a more productive, efficient and effective business with everyone sharing in the benefits.
Let’s take a look at the three topics in the PABIAC strategy objectives in turn:
Occupational health – what are the key issues for paper industries?
They include noise, exposure to dust and chemicals and musculoskeletal disorders – lifting and handling. Chemical exposures may be via dermal contact or as a result of substances which can affect breathing such as respiratory sensitisers and asthmagens.
Effective ways of tackling all of these issues are well known and they do not need to be costly to implement – especially if you already have a good handle on the costs being incurred in your businesses today by not tackling those issues – and they will be substantial.
The new strategy includes Key Performance Indicators to help monitor whether occupational health is being tackled successfully over the next four years. We know that tackling occupational health requires some different thinking to addressing safety issues but different doesn’t mean difficult and the benefits to your workforce and your business will be significant and long term.
Machinery is a significant factor in safety incidents in your industries. The injuries which occur are often life changing and some result in fatalities – all in horrific circumstances. The impact of these traumatic events is long lasting for the individuals and their families and also for the workforce who witness the incident and deal with its aftermath. This is what lies behind the need to achieve or exceed the Machinery Safety objective in the new strategy. High quality guidance is available targeting the different needs of sectors within the paper industries, from HSE, CPI and others.
I urge you to take the guidance that already exists and use it to carry out a gap analysis of where you stand compared to the guidance. There can be no excuse for not doing what is known to be good practice in the industry.
Safe use of machinery – or unsafe use – is one of the more visible tests of the true commitment to health and safety within a company.
Do operators receive adequate training? Is there a means for operators to raise concerns about machinery safety?
When the machinery is offline for any reason, such as when there is a fault or a need for maintenance or checks, is the pervading attitude one of approaching the task in a planned, safe and effective way?
Or is it one of doing everything in a rush, maybe even without proper planning or training, and cutting whatever corners are necessary to get the machine back into operation ASAP?
In the 21st century we should not need to be reminding people about the importance of proper machine guarding or the need for safety interlocks and tag out systems.
Slips and trips
Likewise the third objective of the strategy, slips and trips, can sound like a statement of the need to do the obvious but it is not. Slips and trips are the single biggest cause of injury in the UK paper industry, accounting for a quarter of all injuries and the consequences of simple falls can often be very severe.
Research carried out by the industry and HSL identifying good practice and key issues to address in avoiding slips and trips can be found on HSE’s website. This combined with the tailor made courses HSL has run – and I hope will still be asked to run in the future – should help in understanding how simple changes in the workplace can significantly reduce the risks of slips and trips.
After the conference, please go back to your workplaces with a fresh pair of eyes and look critically at where slips and trips have already happened or might be waiting to happen – such as access to plant, footwear, cleaning spillages and floor surfaces, make a plan to fix it and – most important of all – do it.
HSE will continue to support the industry, employers and worker representatives as the new strategy is taken forward We all must play our part – that way we will see health and safety improvements maximised and resources put to best use.
I’ve already alluded to some of the areas where I question why we are still having to remind people to do what we know is important to improve safety in this sector. In most cases, the most likely missing ingredient is leadership. So let’s delve a little deeper into what it means.
I speak to audiences from all of the different business sectors that HSE regulates, from Construction to Chemicals and beyond. One topic that is equally relevant to all industries is this need for leadership of health and safety from those at the top of an organisation, creating a culture throughout the whole organisation where everyone understands their role and everyone wants to get health and safety right.
From that starting point everything else can flow – identifying and managing the risks relevant to the company and not spending time dealing with trivial or irrelevant matters, building genuine trust and confidence in the whole organisation that health and safety really matters and that the true priorities are being tackled.
How you run your business needs to make it clear to every worker that safety matters, that you expect the job to be done safely and you have to back that up with actions. Words are not enough – your staff need to know that you really mean it. Not just the CEO, but consistent leadership from the top. The CEO, the board and the senior management team must lead by example in all of their behaviours and business goals, no matter what the conflicting pressures of the job - real or perceived.
Some 8 years ago, HSE produced leadership guidance for businesses in conjunction with the Institute of Directors and key stakeholders. The language is “of the time” but still holds true today.
Members of the board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety. Directors and boards need to start by critically examining their own behaviours against the guidance - and, where they fall short of the standards they must change what they do if they are to become more effective leaders.
There are some compelling reasons why they should act:
Not least, the law requires it.
But also because the sad but true fact is that many organisations only get to learn the true cost of poor health and safety after an incident has occurred. Many high profile incidents, trace their root causes back to failures of leadership at the very top and many result not just in high penalties, but cause the business to collapse due to irreparable reputation damage.
But for me, the most powerful argument of all is that you have a moral responsibility to ensure that every member of your workforce and other people who may be affected through you work activities are not harmed by the work that your organisation does.
Leadership isn’t about having a fantastic system in place ‘on paper’. Leadership of health and safety is about doing, about setting an example.
1) Strong and active leadership from the top
2) Worker involvement is key.
3) And of course, keeping the performance of the system under constant review and striving to find new and innovative solutions that will deliver safer and more profitable work
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you today. I wish you well in taking forward the new PABIAC strategy. Remember, this is not about paperwork and it isn’t about numbers either. It’s about more of all of your workforces going home to their families every night unharmed by their work and happier to continue being part of your enterprise because the feel looked after. That’s why you should be aiming not to meet the targets in the strategy but to beat them. – because everyone wins from doing it.
Please participate fully in the rest of the conference activities and ensure that your involvement, engagement and drive to improve health and safety is translated into action when you get back to work.