Leading and managing for health and safety
Leaders, at all levels, need to understand the range of health and safety risks in their part of the organisation and to give proportionate attention to each of them. This applies to the level of detail and effort put into assessing the risks, implementing controls, supervising and monitoring.
‘There is a need for a sensible and proportionate approach to risk management, in short, a balanced approach - this means ensuring that paperwork is proportionate, does not get in the way of doing the job, and it certainly does not mean risk elimination at all costs.’
Judith Hackitt, HSE Chair
What are you doing?
Leading for health and safety
- Is there leadership from the top of your organisation? Is it visible?
- What example do you set? Do you talk about health and safety? When did you last do this?
- What are your significant risks and how do you know they are being controlled?
- Are the health and safety implications of your business decisions recognised and addressed?
- Is there evidence that the board or leader of your organisation is responsive to the health and safety information that is reported?
- How is health and safety included in the processes or management arrangements you have for running the business?
- Are the health and safety responsibilities of key people set out, for example:
- Who is the champion/focus at the board?
- Who sets policy and standards?
- Who monitors performance?
- Are these responsibilities reflected in their job descriptions?
- How do you ensure access to competent advice?
- How do you ensure health and safety information is communicated effectively within and beyond your organisation?
- How do you control your contractors?
- How do you review your health and safety performance?
Leading and managing for health and safety - what to look for
Use the following examples of effective and ineffective health and safety management to check if you are doing what you need to do on leadership.
Examples of effective and ineffective health and safety management
|What it looks like when done effectively
||What it looks like when done badly or not at all
- Maintain attention on the significant risks and implementation of adequate controls.
- Demonstrate their commitment by their actions; they are aware of the key health and safety issues.
- Ensure consultation with the workforce on health and safety.
- Challenge unsafe behaviour in a timely way.
- Set no health and safety priorities.
- Don’t understand the need to maintain oversight.
- Don’t meet their own organisation’s standards/procedures, eg wearing correct PPE on site/shop floor.
- Lack of engagement with health and safety by workers.
- Health and safety is seen as an add-on, irrelevance or nuisance.
- Poor incident history (accidents, near misses, plant damage or other indicators, eg poor maintenance, poor housekeeping).
Management of health and safety
- A systematic approach is used to manage health and safety.
- People understand the risks and control measures associated with their work. Contractors adhere to the same standards.
- Appropriate documentation is available: current, organised, relevant.
- People understand their roles and those of others.
- Performance is measured - to check controls are working and standards are being implemented, and to learn from mistakes after things go wrong.
- If a formal system (such as BS OHSAS 18001, ISO 9001) is used, has it been externally certified - is the certification accredited?
- Health and safety is integrated into business processes.
- Benchmarking is used to compare performance with others.
- Supply chains are influenced to improve health and safety.
- A ‘wellness’ programme is in place.
Management of health and safety
- Incomplete or missing paperwork. Does not link to actual risks in workplace.
- Confusion over roles, inaction as no one takes responsibility for health and safety, distrust of management motives.
- Widespread, routine violations of procedures. No oversight of contractors.
- Information is not passed on, not understood, or not implemented.
- Managers are unaware of employee concerns or do not respond appropriately.
- Lessons are never learned.
Additional factors to consider
Board members or directors
Smaller and medium-sized businesses
- A formal, documented system is not always necessary.
- The behaviours and attributes of a very small group, or perhaps one person such as the business owner, are critical.
- What the owner does to set an example and to provide a lead on health and safety to their staff determines the outcome.
- Medium-sized enterprises can show a mix of the formal and informal when it comes to health and safety arrangements.
- Is there someone in senior management who champions health and safety on the board?
- Who sets the organisational policy and standards and how are they monitored?
- Does the board receive and act upon reports on health and safety matters?
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you use to monitor health and safety performance?
- Do you periodically review your arrangements for managing for health and safety in light of any organisational changes?
- Leadership on the key area of process safety is critical.
- Board level involvement and competence are essential - constant and active engagement in, and promotion of, process safety by the leadership sets a positive safety culture - ‘rigour in leadership’.
- Key factors to address are:
- How do you maintain corporate knowledge, overall technical leadership and competence?
- How do you monitor process safety performance to ensure business risks are effectively managed?
- Do you publish safety information to provide public assurance?
Managing occupational health issues
- Dealing with a work-related ill-health issue in an organisation may not be as straightforward as it is for a safety issue. It is important to get the right competent advice to identify what needs to be done. Remember that you need to consider both immediate ill-health risks and those which can have a latency period before any ill health is seen.
- Key occupational ill-health issues included diseases arising from exposure to asbestos, chemicals, biological agents, dusts, noise, manual handling and vibration.
- Questions to ask:
- Do I have an occupational ill-health problem in my business and have I taken steps to prevent ill health in my workforce?
- Do my workers know which health risks in my business could affect them?