Health & safety: more than a tick box

13 May 2019

Getting your staff to really understand the importance of Health and Safety may be an uphill task, but if you can build a positive health and safety culture across your entire business, Leon Oliver, Health and Safety Officer at Tétris Design & Build, says the benefits will stretch beyond regulatory compliance.

Paperwork means nothing if your workforce is not involved. You can have all the right systems and procedures in place, but these will only be as effective as the people on the ground. While the responsibility may officially fall to your nominated healthy and safety representatives, everyone should be taking ownership of their own safety, as well as the safety of others.

A healthy safety culture

If a CEO is vocal about his commitment to a safe environment at work, this message will naturally filter down through the organisation. It’s about investing in awareness, education, training and involvement. Your business may have one appointed safety officer, but imagine the power if everyone is keeping an eye on good practices? In a simple example, you notice the wiring on an office plug is loose. Don’t wait for it to short the building, unplug it and report it. Research proves that 99% of workplace incidents are preventable. Making everyone accountable is how you build good safety habits and achieve maximum benefit.

Banish the big-stick approach

Health and Safety regulations need to be dynamic, and it’s more than what you can’t do. By hosting interactive sessions with your employees, you can identify negative situations and discuss the best ways to solve them together. Yes, some rules are set in stone, but it is possible to design tailored health and safety solutions and still stay within the guidelines. If people are involved in the decision-making, they are automatically better at implementing the outcome.

Understanding leads to acceptance

Open discussions also help a broader audience to appreciate why certain health and safety rules are in place, and the repercussions if something goes wrong. For instance, a no-smoking ban on the office balcony is ignored at the ‘Friday after-4 social session’, with a mentality that rules only apply to office hours! If it was explained that standing a few steps away from non-smokers doesn’t protect them from the toxins and that the cigarette butts are littering the garden below, most people will be willing to acknowledge and accept the rule.

Safety moments

There is a global trend on work sites around the world where project meetings begin with a ‘safety moment’ before getting into the nitty gritty of the tasks at hand. Topics can range from ladder safety to taking precautions against heat exhaustion, with the aim to push the subject of meaningful and relevant safety experiences.

Health and safety is not something that should be taken for granted. It’s everyone’s business. By increasing awareness to create a culture of safety, you can add enormous value, as well as recognise and control workplace hazards.