As people and companies mature, it’s all too easy to fall into complacent habits. The longer you’re around, the better you are at knowing what works and the less careful you are when it comes to assessing the current risks. The environment and situation is constantly changing, and what you may have been doing for years could now fail, and have some serious consequences.
Described as the most dramatic change to health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act in 1974, the revised sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences came into force in February this year, resulting in potential fines of up £20 million, or even more, for larger organisations, sending a clear message to businesses that health and safety must be prioritised, with more of a focus on people. Organisations have no choice, but to shine a light over their employees, and will need to recognise that processes and systems are only as good as the people using them.
However, relying on processes, systems, training and procedures alone will not keep an organisation and its people safe. Unless organisations can evidence that their people follow processes correctly; demonstrate that they have appropriate training and understand how to apply it, and are prepared to consistently re-assess the competence, capability and progress of their staff, then they will be exposed to people risks.
Managing ‘People risk’ is arguably the hardest area for many businesses to identify, address and manage, as they simply don’t know where they might be exposed.
Breaking down the challenge
Whilst many organisations work extremely hard to put processes in place, it’s not uncommon for shortcuts to be made to speed up the sign-off process and can become a tick-box exercise.
Individuals may be less inclined to follow organisational procedure if they feel isolated, taken-advantage of, overworked, not appreciated or fail to understand how important it is to do their work competently. All of this could lead to an injury at work and can escalate into a major issue.
What can be done today?
It’s more effective for organisations to train individuals based on their specific development requirements rather than ‘sheep dipping’ everyone with the same training. Targeted training reduces cost and time, and the training is more likely to be supported, understood and applied.
To make training and processes stick (which is more than just simply passing a test or acknowledging a process), a continuous approach to re-assessing and observing people is needed.
We recommend that training is delivered in bite-sized chunks to reduce the time spent away from the job, and that companies have an up-to-date and accurate record of people’s capabilities, qualifications and competence in one place. All of our Health and Safety Training Courses are user-friendly and offer concise relevant information, which is to-the-point and provides candidates with an interactive forum in which to engage their learning, as they progress through the courses.
Targeting your employees learning needs is an important element of managing ‘People Risks’ – purchasing an Electrical Safety course for an electrician, because all the other workers are undertaking the same course, does not make good commercial sense – and will alienate your electrician.
Purchasing a course on Working at Height and Ladder Safety for a well-seasoned employee that advocates using a ladder for everything, and thinks Health & Safety is still simply ‘common sense’, may begin to appreciate that human error, and a poor attitude to health and safety can be life-changing for them and others affected by their works.
Recording, documenting, assessing attitudes and revisiting and re-evaluating are all key elements of ensuring that staff are trained appropriately and have the correct appreciation of the importance of playing their part in ensuring their safety and the safety of their colleagues and others affected by their works.
In light of these new health and safety guidelines, this is something all organisations need to take on board to reduce their exposure to record fines and reputational damage that can take years to change.
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