I have recently been following a discussion on LinkedIn that asked:
In what other area(s) of management do we illogically measure success by what doesn’t happen to us? HELP!
The question was focused upon whether a lack of incident reports really means that we are performing well or are we just fooling ourselves that we have an effective health & safety system in place?
Certainly, my own experience over the last 15 years has shown that what might not appear to be broken does not mean it cannot be improved. However sometimes getting this point across to the business owner, CEO or MD (who only focuses on a lack of reports) can be difficult.
It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses end up in court prosecuted by the HSE claim how good their previous health & safety performance has been. Even when the HSE has clearly shown the business failed in the most basic of its duties to manage health & safety (e.g. failure to properly assess risks). I have to ask: “what was the business owner, CEO or MD looking at?”
In our experience, the absence of accident and near miss reports not mean that health and safety is well managed. We have come across some very unsafe workplaces over the years where management has failed to recognise the risks.
A particular site we visited in the middle of 2012 (to undertake a DSEAR assessment), showed an alarmingly poor approach to health & safety. Access to conveyors and moving parts were either not guarded at all or had access points to get around the guards (see pcitures below) and the management felt this was acceptable because of the need to clean the line regularly. Their workforce had been brought in from Pakistan and spoke no English and had no idea of what health & safety was about. Clearly it was apparent that if there was an accident it was not going to have been reported; did the MD know about this? Our time with this organisation suggested senior management probably didn’t want to know; but we bet if they were in court they would have quoted an exemplary health & safety record.
So what should you measure your business against? As per an earlier blog we posted there are a number of proactive monitoring tools that a business should consider using to ensure the safety of people and the business is properly maintained.
As every business is clearly different we know that there is no one approach that fits all businesses; however a business should consider using some of the following:
- Risk assessments – if done properly should focus both on the risks today and risks that could occur in the future;
- Workplace inspections – can be used to monitor changes in the workplace activities, equipment and plant condition etc;
- Audits – should identify how well the health and safety systems are applied and identify potential non-compliance concerns;
- Staff surveys – can help to identify attitudes to health and safety in the workplace.
We have found over the years that those that look to monitor using proactive information are likely to be far more successful in managing health and safety within their organisations in the long term. To keep your workforce and business safe why not look at how you measure performance in your business.