We have been following with interest a feed from a LinkedIn group that poses a dilemma to health & safety professionals. It started with a question of what a health & safety manager should do when a boss decides to cut health & safety as a means to save money, which results in health & safety performance standards falling. When the boss is approached he says that he will have to lay people off (including the health & safety manager) if they are to re-instate the systems.
This has seen many respond that the health & safety manager should either stand up to the boss or leave if safety continues to be compromised; or they should report the company to the authorities. On a moral front we agree the health & safety professional is there to serve a duty to their fellow employees; the trouble is that it’s an easy thing to advise people in that way, but it’s often not that straightforward, is it? In this case he and his employees need the job and he is concerned what would happen to them.
What is clear from the feedback is that this problem is a global one and that it transcends many industries in this current economic climate. We ourselves have at times visited workplaces in the U.K. where safety standards fall well below what should be expected in 2012 and have discussed with concerned management why the standards are so low. Often they blame senior management and feel trapped in not being able to put things right but equally are concerned for job security. However, with the right support and guidance this can often be fixed without costing a fortune.
Clearly, keeping quiet really does not work well in the long term because if things go wrong the enforcing authorities and courts are likely to take a dim view (and of course the costs will then be high). For these companies the legislation coming this 6th October really should be used to focus senior management decisions because inspectors will be charged at £124 hour, where safety is found to be sub-standard.
As one respondent put it:
There are effective and affordable solutions to many of today’s challenges in keeping people safe and free of harm. A good programme will ensure buy-in and instil personal responsibility in the early stages. Programmes often fall apart during uncertain economic times, and being prepared for economic cycles should be part of the plan. Caring for employees and continuously improving safety produces the best outcomes. All it takes is one incident and an employer can lose everything.
So we suggest looking around at your workplace and asking yourself “what is your health & safety dilemma”?