All employers are legally required to provide a healthy and safe workplace and suitable management system. This guide outlines a four-step approach for effectively managing your health, safety and wellbeing obligations.
Why management of health and safety at work matters
Health and safety at work is a serious issue and is covered by extensive legislation and guidance.
More than 690,000 people were injured in British workplaces in 2019/20 and 111 people were killed. Another 1.6 million suffered a work-related illness and, in 2018, 2,466 individuals died from mesothelioma due to past exposure to asbestos at work. Around 30 million working days are lost every year and the annual cost to businesses due to illnesses, injuries and health-related incidents in the workplace is over £16 billion.
Every organisation must establish a health and safety management system, suitable working environments and it should be a high priority for an employers’ senior management team.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is the primary piece of occupational health and safety legislation in Great Britain and it places general duties on employers. Failure to comply can lead to enforcement notices, unlimited fines and up to two years in prison.
Understanding the management of health and safety at work is often perceived to be complicated and time-consuming, but that needn’t be the case. By following the Health and Safety Executive’s suggested four-step approach, you can create an effective health and safety policy, and maintain a healthy and safe workplace.
The four steps are:
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” Benjamin Franklin famously said, and that’s certainly true for health and safety.
Planning how you will meet your health and safety obligations will help you create policies, systems and procedures that are appropriate to your organisation and that effectively manage the risks specific to your workplace. Questions you need to consider are:
- What is the risk profile of the organisation and is it documented?
- Where are you now and where do you want to be?
- What do you want to achieve and how will you achieve it?
- What are the health and safety organisational responsibilities at all levels in the organisation?
- How will you monitor and measure your health and safety performance with leading and lagging indicators?
- How will you deal with fires and other emergencies?
- Have you identified specific legal requirements that apply to your organisation?
Key to the effective management of health and safety at work is the requirement to appoint a competent resource which can be internal or external and who will be able to advise senior management about the organisation’s obligations and how to fulfil them. This duty is outlined in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Understand your responsibilities under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the importance of a risk assessment in keeping employees, customers and others in your workplace safe with our managing safely training course.
The next stage is assessing the risks and implementing the plan that you create as a result.
A risk assessment is a legal requirement and a really useful way of managing health and safety compliance. Conducting a risk assessment will help you to identify workplace hazards and activities, which can then evaluate risks and come up with measures to control them. The risk assessments must be undertaken by someone competent.
The Health and Safety Executive’s recommended five-step process to risk assessment is:
- Identify the hazards.
- Decide who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions and controls.
- Record your findings and implement.
- Review your controls.
Not all organisations have the same risks and specific assessments may need to be carried out for hazardous activities such as working with hazardous substances, fire safety and manual handling.
Organise activities to deliver your plans
Ensuring organisational responsibilities are defined and understood is the key and starts with senior management and cascades through the organisation. Involve and consult with all employees to ensure everyone understands how health and safety is managed, the targets and objectives are understood, and what role they play in the management of health and safety at work. Being transparent and consultative will help to develop positive workplace attitudes, behaviours and a lasting positive culture.
Implement your management of health and safety at work plan
Once you’ve agreed on the control measures, you then need to implement them.
All managers and employees should be provided with sufficient resources, equipment, safe systems of work, controls and hazard awareness to be able to do their job and receive appropriate training and instruction.
Training is particularly important for managers, and online training such as our managing safety course can help with this requirement. Managers should be provided with the essential information they need to manage health and safety at work in their area of responsibility and control.
Once your plan has been implemented, you need to make sure it is working.
Measure your performance
Measuring and monitoring should not just be a tick-box exercise. It is important you are aware of health and safety issues and identify any improvements that need to be made through inspection, audit and reviewing incidents and accidents.
You need to regularly check that your workplace risks are being managed and safe working practices are being followed by all employees and contractors.
The level of measurement will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organisation but you should allocate appropriate resources and train employees if necessary. Measures include inspections of premises and equipment, monitoring cases of ill health and checking sickness absence records.
It is recommended that you have pre-determined measures as part of your monitoring so you can check performance.
The results should be recorded and reported back to key stakeholder in the organisation so that they can act on the findings.
Investigate the causes of accidents, incidents or near misses
If an accident or incident occurs, you must check that your health and safety controls and measures are suitable and sufficient. If not, you should review your risk assessment and following investigation and analysis make appropriate changes to prevent the accident or incident from happening again.
Employers are legally obliged to record and report certain injuries, illnesses and incidents under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.
The final stage in the four steps for effective management of health and safety at work is reviewing your performance and taking action from the lessons learned.
Review your performance
Reviews using data that is gathered will determine whether your health and safety policy and the procedures you have in place for managing health and safety are still appropriate and effective. The objectives and targets established in the planning stage will help provide assurance that the plan is working or where more emphasis might need to apply.
You should also review policy documents and risk assessments to check if they need to be updated, particularly if something has changed such as legislation or guidance, recent case law, enforcement or within your organisation, such as accidents, incidents or findings from inspections and audits and from consultation with workers.
You should also review policy documents and risk assessments to check if they need to be updated, particularly if something has changed in your organisation.
Learning lessons through measuring, monitoring and reviewing is important.
Act on the results of investigations into accidents, incidents and near misses. You may need completely new systems and procedures or it could be that they don’t need to be changed but managers and employees need to be trained in how to comply with them or through consultation that the controls are adequate. Extra training, such as a managing safety course, might be necessary.
Investigations may also highlight other factors such as leadership failures, behavioural problems and communication.
Our Managing Safety Training online course ensures that employees have the knowledge and understanding of what is required to manage safety in their area of responsibility.