Health and safety management can feel like a minefield for organisations that don’t have clear health and safety policies, with hazards and risks at every turn. Some employers may feel that health and safety management is overly complicated and time-consuming, but that isn’t the case if it’s managed properly.
Workplace and employee health and safety can’t be left to chance. From conducting risk assessments to understand how your organisation’s environment and activities can result in harm to employers, customers and others, to implementing policies to protect employees, health and safety management should be at the heart of an organisation.
Why is managing health and safety so important?
Taking unnecessary risks with the health and safety of employees can lead to a number of negative repercussions for a company, including;
- Harm to employee, customer and others.
- Fines for non-compliance with health and safety legislation.
- Increased insurance premiums.
- High employee turnover with increased recruitment costs.
- Low employee morale and productivity.
- Poor reputation with potential employees and stakeholders.
- Increase costs through downtime and lost productivity.
The penalties for breaches of health and safety legislation can be significant, running into tens of thousands of pounds. Directors and organisation owners can face criminal charges or sanctions such as disqualification as a company director according to the Health and Safety Executive.
5 health and safety management mistakes
When it comes to effective health and safety management, what mistakes can organisations make, and how can they be avoided?
1. Failing to carry out risk assessments
As an employer, it is your responsibility to identify and manage any potential risks and hazards to your employees in order to ensure a safe working environment.
To do this, you may need to carry out a risk assessment. Once risks and hazards have been identified, it is then possible to put in place appropriate measures to manage and minimise them. Risk assessments don’t have to be complicated to carry out; simply look at the processes and measures already in place and consider who might be harmed, where and how. Don’t forget to consult with employees and include their views in your findings.
In the UK, organisations with five or fewer employees do not have to record risk assessments. Larger organisations, however, must keep records and in all cases effective record keeping such as a risk register can help demonstrate compliance in the event of a incident or claim.
To help ensure compliance consider using a professional health and safety risk assessment and auditing service.
2. Not appointing a responsible person
Organisations can demonstrate their health and safety commitments by creating and communicating health and safety policies. However, policies only go so far – you’ll need to appoint a person to take responsibility for key health and safety issues.
If your organisation has five or more employees, you must appoint a competent and responsible individual to help meet your health and safety responsibilities. You can take on the role yourself, or assign it to another employee or an outside contractor. Whoever you choose must have experience of managing health and safety standards and some degree of training.
The responsible person will report to management, informing them of any employees health and safety concerns along with risk assessment outcomes, including any potential hazards and risks not currently being handled.
3. Not involving the workforce
A lot can be learnt from listening and talking to your workforce about their duties and the associated risks. Organisations that don’t collect health and safety feedback from employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and others could overlook potential health risks. Effective management of health and safety involves putting in place systems to gather feedback and for employees to raise concerns so action can be taken.
4. Not staying up-to-date with changes
Health and safety priorities and risks can change, and organisations that don’t regularly review potential risks and update policies could be left wrong-footed.
Over the last two years, for example, organisations have had to adjust how they protect the health and safety of their employees as they work through the Covid-19 pandemic. Challenges such as managing the health and safety of employees working from home through to social distancing and viral control practices have resulted in the need for updated approaches to health and safety.
Working from home provided a new set of health and safety challenges for companies to face; physical distance from employees, lack of employer input over physical working environments, exacerbated negative physical and mental health due to stress and the pandemic and empty work spaces leading to a potential increase in Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks.
Pre-existing health and safety management policies may not already include guidelines for many of these challenges, and so employees may be at risk through ineffective DSE set-up or experience impacted mental health. Organisations have a duty to protect the health and safety of all employees, and so conducting additional risk assessments and keeping health and safety policies updated is essential.
5. Inadequate health and safety training training
All employees should be provided with adequate training to complete their tasks and work safely in their work environment, regardless of whether that is an office, warehouse or other type of workplace.
Certain work environments will pose certain potential risks and hazards. An initial risk assessment is vital for employers to inform employees during training of these risks and hazards, and the measures put in place that minimise risks in order to create a safe working environment. Training should be conducted during work hours and be funded by the employer.
Most health and safety training is increasingly conducted online via eLearning platforms such as SHINE, which can also record training and supports evidence-based compliance requirements.
How can you improve your health and safety management?
There are many ways in which you can improve the health and safety management of your company and employees, including;
- Holding regular health and safety training refresher sessions for employees.
- Enlist outside help, such as Praxis42’s health and safety consulting services, to design health and safety management systems.
- Maintain detailed health and safety records.
- Regularly invite employee feedback and opinions.
- Provide employees with a flexible variety of online learning opportunities, such as our health and safety e-learning courses.