The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) recommend Plan, Do, Check, Act as an effective strategy for managing health and safety at work. Following this cyclical approach helps to ensure the control measures you put in place to manage risks continues to keep your employees and others safe.
What is managing health and safety at work?
Managing health and safety at work involves the following core elements:
Effective Leadership and management
Effective leadership and management is crucial for creating a culture of safety within an organisation.
- Setting clear health and safety policies and objectives.
- Ensuring senior management is committed to health and safety.
- Leading by example and demonstrating a commitment to safety.
- Allocating resources for health and safety initiatives.
- Regularly reviewing and improving safety performance.
A trained/skilled workforce
Ensuring your management and employees have the knowledge and competence to perform their duties safely is vital for preventing accidents.
Key actions include:
- Identifying specific training needs for different roles and tasks.
- Providing relevant health and safety training for all managers and employees.
- Regularly updating training to reflect changing hazards, risks and incident investigation findings and recommendations.
An environment where people are trusted and involved
Involving employees in health and safety matters and promoting a culture of trust can lead to improved health and safety outcomes.
- Encourage employees to report safety concerns or incidents.
- Involve employees in risk assessments and safety planning.
- Engage in consultation to create open lines of communication for discussing health, safety and wellbeing issues.
- Recognise and reward safe behaviours and contributions.
- Ensure employees feel empowered to take ownership of their own health and safety and that of others.
What is the law on managing health and safety at work?
Employers must adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Specific requirements and obligations depend on the nature of the work and industry, so it is advisable for employers to seek advice from a health and safety consultant or someone competent when needed to ensure compliance.
Under health and safety law, employers have a legal duty to:
Assess and control risks
Employers must assess and control the health and safety risks in their workplace and operations. This is about identifying hazards, evaluating risks, and putting measures in place to mitigate or eliminate those risks so far as reasonably practicable.
Establish health and safety policies
When there are five or more employees, organisations must have a written health and safety policy, although it is advisable for every employer to have a written policy. A written policy not only demonstrates legal compliance but is a useful way to communicate health and safety expectations to managers, employees and others who work on behalf of the organisation.
Policies should outline an organisation’s commitment to health and safety, responsibilities, and arrangements for implementing health and safety measures.
Appoint a ‘competent person’
One or more competent persons must be appointed by an employer to assist in the management of health and safety. These individuals must have the necessary knowledge, training, and experience to advise on health and safety matters.
Provide information, instruction, training, and supervision
Managers and employees must be provided with appropriate information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure they protect their own and other people’s health and safety. Training should be relevant to the specific tasks that employees perform and the risks associated with those tasks.
Consult with employees and representatives
Employers must consult with employees or their representatives (such as trade union representatives) on health and safety matters. Employees should have the opportunity to express their views and contribute to decisions affecting their health and safety.
Keep records and report certain incidents
Records of findings from risk assessments and details of the health and safety measures in place must be kept by employers. Employers must report certain serious accidents, diseases, injuries and dangerous occurrences to RIDDOR.
Monitor and review health and safety measures
Employers should regularly monitor and review their health and safety measures to ensure they remain effective and up to date. This includes updating risk assessments when circumstances change or as specified in their arrangements.
How to implement HSE Plan, Do, Check, Act
Plan, Do, Check, Act is a widely recognised, systematic approach to continuous improvement in various management systems, including health and safety management. It provides a structured framework for organisations to plan, implement, monitor, and continuously improve their processes and systems to enhance health and safety performance.
In the planning phase, organisations identify potential hazards and risks within their operations. Hazard identification includes recognising any condition, situation, substance, or activity that has the potential to harm to employees, visitors, and the environment.
A risk assessment is conducted to evaluate the likelihood and severity of harm that may result from identified hazards relevant to the organisation. This is often referred to as risk profiling and provides a sound basis to develop the management system.
Based on the identified risks and hazards, organsations establish clear health and safety objectives and goals. These objectives should be SMART:
- Specific. Clearly defined and unambiguous in their intent.
- Measurable. Quantifiable so that progress can be tracked and assessed.
- Achievable. Realistic and attainable given available resources and constraints.
- Relevant. Aligned with an organisation’s mission and priorities.
- Time-bound. Set within a defined timeframe to create a sense of urgency.
With objectives and goals in place, organisations develop strategies and action plans to mitigate or eliminate identified risks and achieve the desired health and safety outcomes using a hierarchy of controls. Strategies may include modifying equipment to reduce hazards or providing PPE or training for employees. Policies and procedures are developed to promote safe and healthy work practices.
Resource allocation is crucial at this stage. Appropriate resources must be allocated to ensure strategies can be implemented effectively.
In this step, organisations put their health and safety plans into action to mitigate or eliminate hazards using a hierarchy of controls. This may include training employees, implementing new safety procedures, and making necessary changes to equipment or processes and preparing for emergencies.
This stage may involve:
- Creating and maintaining detailed procedures and guidelines that explain safe work practices, emergency procedures and response plans.
- Developing clear, accessible, up to date training to educate employees about health and safety procedures.
- Ensuring clear communication with employees through consultation, regular safety meetings and safety bulletins and making sure there are open channels of communication for reporting safety concerns.
- Establishing systems for reporting incidents, near misses and hazards.
- Maintaining accurate records of incidents and safety observations to track trends and identify areas for improvement.
Communication is key to ensure all employees understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining health and safety. Documentation of procedures, guidelines and training materials is also essential.
The ‘check’ phase is focused on evaluating the performance of health and safety measures to determine whether they are effective and aligned with established objectives and goals. This can involve tracking incident reports, conducting audits, safety inspections, and collecting data on safety metrics.
Health and safety audits and reviews help evaluate the effectiveness of implemented measures and compliance with health and safety standards.
An audit might assess whether:
- Policies, procedures, and control measures are being successfully implemented.
- An organisation is compliant with health and safety regulations, standards, and legal requirements.
- There has been progress in achieving health and safety goals and objectives.
- Corrective actions are necessary to address areas for improvement. This might be providing additional training or allocating resources to resolve issues.
The ‘Act’ phase is where organisations respond to observations made during the ‘check’ phase. If issues are identified, corrective actions will now be taken to address them. Corrective actions may involve:
- Addressing non-compliance with safety standards, correcting unsafe conditions, or rectifying procedural deficiencies.
- Conducting a root cause analysis to identify the underlying causes of issues.
- Developing corrective plans once root causes are identified. These plans outline the specific steps to be taken to resolve issues and improve health and safety.
- Assigning responsibility for implementing corrective actions. Individuals or teams are assigned with carrying out necessary changes by set deadlines.
- Revising procedures, providing additional training, modifying equipment or facilities, or making other necessary changes.
Progress is monitored to ensure corrective actions are being implemented as planned and that they are effective. Verification processes may be implemented to confirm that corrective actions have successfully resolved identified problems.
This stage is not only about addressing immediate issues. It also emphasises continuous improvement by updating management plans based on findings from audits, reviews, and incident data. All of this helps the organisation’s leadership manage health and safety and meet their governance responsibilities and obligation to prevent harm.
Why follow the HSE’s Plan, Do, Check, Act method?
The HSE’s Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle is a continuous and iterative process, and it is the core of effective health and safety management systems such as ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety management. It is also referenced in the HSE guidance Managing for Health and Safety (HSG65).
By following this approach your organisation can proactively manage risks, continually enhancing your safety measures to reduce the likelihood of workplace incidents, ill-health and harm. The HSE’s Plan, Do, Check, Act is an effective method of achieving and maintaining high standards of health and safety in your workplace and operations.