Have you ever allowed an employee to do something they shouldn’t?
How often have you wandered through the workshop without steel toe-caps – and without being challenged?
When individuals turn a blind eye to unsafe, illegal behaviour, they can expose themselves, other individuals, and the organisation to unacceptable risk of harm. When senior staff are seen to ignore safety rules, the developing safety culture on the ground is undermined. Regardless of written rules, when the unwritten culture is ‘production over safety’, accidents happen.
So strong is this message that even the law acknowledges it. If a health and safety offence is committed with the consent or connivance of, or through the neglect of, any director, manager, secretary or similar officer, then that individual can be prosecuted under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974… as well as the organisation.
Many studies have shown that workplace behaviour is context-driven. People stay silent in some circumstances, speak up in others, and why and when they do that is different for everyone. Individuals bring their own experiences to the workplace that affect how they choose to fit into the hierarchy. If a blind eye is turned to unsafe behaviour, because it’s quicker, because of poor planning, because people aren’t trained to do things safely, the hazards stop being seen as such. Over an extended period, the absence of injury reinforces the unsafe behaviours that will eventually lead to a serious injury, because reinforced behaviour tends to be repeated. All the written rules, posters and toolbox talks matter not a jot; the workplace culture shapes the choices people make and that culture is set by those at the top.
How to see more clearly?
- Adhere to rules set for the workplace; wear the PPE, keep to walkways, comply with signs
- Notice unsafe conditions and behaviour; ask that the obstructed fire escape route be cleared, stop that person crossing behind the reversing vehicle
- View risk assessments as an aid for planning activities; prevent undue pressure on those at the workface that can lead to shortcuts
- Include someone who knows little about the process to help assess the risk; the fresh set of eyes can yield surprising results
- Focus on significant hazards; prevent people falling from that opening two storeys up and reorganise traffic flow to prevent injury before issuing PPE and safe systems of work
- Consult with employees on how to eliminate hazards or manage risks – they know the short-cuts they have to take to get the work done.
Good risk management and good health and safety advice should lead to lower costs and help reduce insurance premiums. Your Alcumus Health and Safety Consultant applies knowledge of the law, Approved Codes of Practice and other guidance to the circumstances in your workplace and is able to advise on any additional requirements.