Core elements: managing for health and safety

words: Simon Bloxham, Health and Safety Strategist for Safety for Business

Organisations will have management processes or arrangements to deal with payroll, personnel issues, finance and quality control – managing health and safety is no different. To help you comply with the law, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages a common-sense and practical approach to managing health and safety. It should be part of the everyday process of running an organisation and an integral part of workplace behaviours and attitudes.

The core elements to effectively managing for health and safety are:

Leadership and management
A trained/skilled workforce
An environment where people are trusted and involved

The HSE advocates that all of these elements, underpinned by an understanding of the profile of risks the organisation creates or faces, are needed.

What does the law say?

You have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage for health and safety. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to put in place arrangements to control health and safety risks. As a minimum, you should have the processes and procedures required to meet the legal requirements, including:

A written health and safety policy (if you employ five or more people)
Assessments of the risks to employees, contractors, customers, partners, and any other people who could be affected by your activities – and record the significant findings in writing (if you employ five or more people). Any risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’
Arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures that come from risk assessment
Access to competent health and safety advice
Providing employees with information about the risks in your workplace and how they are protected
Instruction and training for employees in how to deal with the risks
Ensuring there is adequate and appropriate supervision in place
Consulting with employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures

So are you doing what you need to do?

Owners and managers need to consider if they are doing enough to manage health and safety effectively. You need to answer fundamental questions, such as:

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation’s health and safety performance?
How reliable and sustainable for the future are the measures currently in place?
If your organisation is getting risk control right, why is that? For example, does performance depend on one person’s dedication and enthusiasm or is it a key value across the organisation?
If there are problems, what are the underlying reasons, e.g. competence, resources, accountability, or lack of engagement with the workforce?
Have you learned from situations where things have gone wrong?

Delivering effective arrangements: The Plan, Do, Check, Act approach

Managing health and safety can rarely be achieved by one-off interventions. A sustained and systematic approach is necessary. While this may not always require a formal health and safety management system, whatever approach is used it probably contains the three-part steps plan: ‘do, check, act’.


Think about where you are now and where you need to be
Say what you want to achieve, who will be responsible for what, how you will achieve your aims, and how you will measure your success. You may need to write down this policy and your plan to deliver it
Decide how you wi l l measure performance. Think about ways to do this that go beyond looking at accident figures
Consider fire and other emergencies. Co-operate with anyone who shares your workplace and co-ordinate plans with them
Remember to plan for changes and identify any specific legal requirements that apply to you


Identify your risk profile

Assess the risks, identify what could cause harm in the workplace, who it could harm and how, and what you will do to manage the risk
Decide what the priorities are and identify the biggest risks

Organise your activities to deliver your plan. In particular, aim to:

Involve workers and communicate, so that everyone is clear on what is needed and can discuss issues – develop positive attitudes and behaviours
Provide adequate resources, including competent advice where needed

Implement your plan

Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place
Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained
Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work
Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed


Measure your performance

Make sure that your plan has been implemented – ‘paperwork’ on its own is not a good performance measure
Assess how well the risks are being controlled and if you are achieving your aims. In some circumstances formal audits may be useful

Investigate the causes of accidents, incidents or near misses.


Review your performance

Learn from accidents and incidents, ill-health data, errors and relevant experience, including from other organisations
Revisit plans, policy documents and risk assessments to see if they need updating

Take action on lessons learned, including from audit and inspection reports.

If you’d like to learn more about health and safety, as well as the legal obligations of employers, we’ve got you covered!

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