Checking that you are managing risks in your organisation is a vital, sometimes overlooked step. It will give you the confidence that you are doing enough to keep on top of health and safety and maybe show you how you could do things better in the future.
Checking involves setting up an effective monitoring system, backed up with sensible performance measures.
Investigating and analysing incidents will also make a big contribution to understanding health and safety in your business.
You need to be sure that your monitoring adds value and isn't just a tick-box exercise.
Good-quality monitoring will not just identify problems but will help you understand what caused them and what sort of changes are needed to address them. Poor monitoring might tell you that something is wrong but may not help you understand why, or what to do about it.
How to monitor
Use the same approach to monitor your health and safety performance as you would when you monitor other aspects of your business.
Monitoring requires time and effort. So you need to allocate appropriate resources and possibly train staff involved in it ahead of time. Businesses may monitor health and safety in different ways, depending on size and sector, but there are some basic principles that apply across the board.
Monitoring needs to be timely. As with all other business systems, you want to know what is happening in your organisation at the moment rather than at some point in the past.
The outcome of your monitoring will have most impact if it is reported back to key decision makers in your organisation. Unless there's a board-level commitment in advance, so you can act on what your monitoring tells you, then all your efforts to collect information could be wasted.
Types of monitoring
There are many different types of monitoring but they can generally be categorised as either 'active' or 'reactive':
- Active methods monitor the design, development, installation and operation of management arrangements. These tend to be preventive in nature, for example:
- routine inspections of premises, plant and equipment by staff
- health surveillance to prevent harm to health
- planned function check regimes for key pieces of plant
- Reactive methods monitor evidence of poor health and safety practice but can also identify better practices that may be transferred to other parts of a business, for example:
Selecting the right measures
Most organisations use performance measures as part of their monitoring. Checking performance against a range of pre-determined measures is one of the most frequently used techniques of monitoring.
Selecting the right measures to use is the critical step. Using the wrong measures will cause a lot of unnecessary and unproductive effort, with little benefit to your organisation.