Fork Lift Trucks

At a client’s site in the Midlands, the speed limit generally on site was 10 mph but fork lift trucks were capable of 15 mph including in the several factory units and warehouses. With floors slippery with dust and little segregation between trucks and pedestrians it had to be done; I had the engineer who maintained the trucks regulate them all down to 5 mph. There was a hue and cry at first but it was surprising how quickly people got used to it. Where a reasonable case could be made I’d reach a compromise with the department manager – it was a large site after all – but a rule of 5 mph inside buildings was firmly established. In due course, by applying a particular kind of risk assessment designed for workplace transport, we did something about the slippery floors and segregation...

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...

Safety concession

Life became easier the day I had the idea of introducing a safety concession arrangement. It was a real Doh! moment – why hadn’t I thought of it before? We were reviewing the management of non-routine activities with a client in the North West, agonising over why it was we couldn’t make the permit to work arrangements clear and uncomplicated. We just wanted to have a simple rule like working from a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) is banned, except with a permit to work but we knew that the Site Services Manager would complain that for him, this was routine; he used several MEWPs on a daily basis for high-level cleaning and having to obtain a permit every time would be impracticable. He was right, it wouldn’t be long before short-cuts were taken and then the whole permit to work arrangement would be undermined. And then PING!! I had the idea. Why didn’t I issue him with a health and safety concession? If he could demonstrate to me that he operated a safe system of work every time: point of use risk assessment; MEWP inspected before use; IPAF-training for all operators; 2-man working; MEWP cordoned off; harnesses and helmets; etc. we could confirm it all in a concession for say 6-months, and then review. Everything fell into place and the concession arrangement soon became the routine way of managing those few, thorny exceptions that prevented everything else being simple and straight...