If there was one piece of advice

A former colleague recently started his first Health & Safety Manager job for a small manufacturer in the North West. He’s been a practitioner for some years but this would be the first time he’s been at the helm, ploughing his own furrow so to speak. When I spoke to him this week the reality of the task was just setting in. He asked me what my one piece of advice for him would be and I didn’t really have to think that long before giving an answer. Better health and safety performance in the long run comes from developing the sort of arrangements required by the Management Regs. There will always be other people’s fires to fight but a Health & Safety Manager needs a compass to keep him on the path and prevent him from chasing his own tail. I reminded him of the step-by-step process that can be found elsewhere on this site and we talked about some of the things we’d worked on together over the years. He seemed reassured. He called again the following day. His boss had agreed to pay me for mentoring and coaching him 1-day a month until further notice. I’m really looking forward to...

Bringing policies to the attention of employees

The law requires that the health and safety policy is brought to the attention of all employees. Some companies have manuals available in the supervisor’s office or on a shelf in the safety department. Others produce leaflets and distribute them to staff. Some of them might get read but virtually all will get binned or lost. It’s not the most exciting reading material after all; people are only interested when they’re interested and that generally means when there’s an issue. Possibly the most creative idea I ever had was for a client and it was to develop a format whereby the details of a specific policy, including accountabilities and responsibilities, could be shown on one side of a piece of paper. Printed on A3 or A4, clear concise health and safety policy statements; they were there when employees needed them, posted on the wall, a very public demonstration of management’s...

A noble cause still

When I first became involved in this profession some two decades ago, I felt it was a noble cause. I do still. Then there seemed as much public concern about the lack of accountability for health and safety offences, as there is about the excessiveness of health and safety management today. I recall a prime time television documentary that centered on an accident that happened not far from where I now sit in Lancashire. A worker was dragged into a plastic crumbing machine and killed; much was made of how little of him there was left for his family to bury. The machine, not unlike a large food processor, had an aperture at the top through which waste plastic could be fed, and a giant blade at the bottom rotating at high speed. A factory inspector had been horrified to find that the interlock guard on the lid had been overridden – so that more plastic could be fed into the machine more quickly – and issued a health and safety enforcement notice, prohibiting use of the machine. The bosses ignored the notice and the inevitable happened. It seemed, and indeed it was, exploitation pure and simple. A staggering lack of consideration for the value of human life, the kind Emile Zola would have recognized a hundred years before. Such dramatic cases are rare, but still someone is killed at work almost every working day in this country and many more lives are changed forever. Whilst that remains the case, I’ll continue to be happy doing what I’m doing, despite the raised...