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Health and safety morals and the importance of leadership…
With the publication of the Governments Deregulation Bill in July 2013 which aims to free UK business of red tape, we explore the increasing need for business leaders to morally maintain and continually improve their health and safety management performance.

By: Phillip Jones, Technical Director, Quantum Compliance.
 

There are some business leaders on one side of this argument who use deregulation as justification for ‘easing up’ on their health and safety management activities.  Whilst there are some examples of good business reasoning behind some deregulation in certain lower risk businesses, this approach certainly does not fit all business sectors and situations.
 
The case for ‘easing up’ has been, and continues to be, fuelled by the media, and indeed some business commentators, who continue to recycle one-sided news stories to justify occupational health and safety deregulation. This has resulted in concerns that some business leaders are using the deregulation agenda as justification for not correctly embedding health and safety management within their business.  Unfortunately, when you mention those three words ‘health and safety’ in conversation, you risk being met with a ‘tut’ or a ‘roll of the eyes’ response, which in part can be put down to the negativity which newspapers and the media in general attribute to health and safety. Indeed, much has been written about the way the media has often poorly presented health and safety decisions, which in turn has led to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) robustly defending sound health and safety judgments and at the same time, criticising unreasonable or disproportionate outcomes.
 
This leads to the core of the argument which focusses on individual business leaders and, in particular, what drives their moral stance on protecting the health and safety of their employees.  Against this backdrop of deregulation, a business leader needs to increasingly rely on his/her own moral compass in making compliance decisions for their organisations.
 
Trying to understand why some business leaders have sided with the deregulators is complex as everyone has different experiences upon which to draw. However, it is likely that one such experience may include attending a health and safety training course at some time whereby the trainer would predictably present the benefits of good and the costs of poor health and safety management.  Unfortunately, the moral arguments of maintaining and improving health and safety standards would probably have been underplayed which, in itself, represents a very important area for health and safety trainers and practitioners to focus on in future. 
 
For those business leaders who do indeed support the moral argument for maintaining and improving health and safety standards, then they have got some work to do.  They will actually need to lead health and safety by:
  • motivating managers and staff;
  • executing effective training programmes with efficient follow ups and reviews; and
  • successfully influencing all stake holders. 
In effectively leading health and safety, business leaders must also strive to develop a sound health and safety culture within their organisations – one which: 
  • self-polices, i.e. where staff are comfortable with challenging and being challenged;
  • develops unspoken expectations and perceptions; and one in which
  • health and safety is not labelled as a priority, as priorities change – health and safety should be embedded.
To support and illustrate the essentials of effective health and safety leadership, the HSE has published a number of case studies on their website. In addition, there is guidance available and the joint HSE – Institute of Directors (IOD) publication ‘Leading health and safety at work’ (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg417.pdf) is still relevant. This publication suggests the adoption of a four point agenda for company boards to consider, including core actions and practical ways of delivering the plan under the well known ‘Plan – Do – Act – Check’ headings.
 
In conclusion, business leaders must guard against purely relying on the decreasing list of regulations to determine their health and safety standards and management activities.  Whilst compliance is important for any business, when pressure is being brought to bear on reducing the list of legislation, business leaders should increasingly decide for themselves on the direction of health and safety management, based on moral arguments for maintaining and improving the health and safety performance of the organisations they own or represent.  Business leaders who understand the moral argument and can effectively motivate and influence their staff will ultimately be best placed to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and businesses into the future.
News...

Workplace safety stats published

Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show an 11 per cent drop in major injuries compared to 2011/12.

According to the provisional statistics, in Britain between April 2012 and March 2013 - 148 workers were killed at work

There has been little change in the industries in which workers are most likely to be injured by their jobs – with construction (156.0 major injuries per 100,000 employees) agriculture (239.4 major injuries per 100,000 employees) and waste and recycling (369.8 major injuries per 100,000 employees) among the higher risk sectors.




IOSH warning in storm aftermath

Following the worst storm in five years to hit England and Wales, ‘Storm Jude’ the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says people should heed the advice from the Met Office and other organisations such as the Environment Agency or local emergency services.

Businesses should develop their own contingency plans and communicate them to their workforce, which might include more flexibility in starting or leaving work.

IOSH would also like to remind people of the hazards that can be present in the aftermath and during any clear up operation. For example, wading through flood water, possible contaminates with waste water or other pollutants, also drain and man-hole covers might have been raised.

Guidance...

Safety in contract cleaning

Guidance from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) covers the chemical and biological hazards that cleaners may encounter and sets out recommendations to control those hazards, for both employers and employees.
 
Advice:
 
Cleaning staff are often employed in workplaces that have been planned with other workers in mind. Therefore it is important that a risk assessment is completed to identify any hazards which the cleaner may come in contact with in the workplace, and steps should be taken to minimise or reduce the risks from those hazards.
 
Cleaners may be exposed to many different types of hazards in the workplace, including: Chemicals, biological hazards, manual handling, lone working, slips, trips and falls, machinery hazards, fire and electricity.

Prosecutions...
Unqualified and unregistered plumber prosecuted

A Milton Keynes plumber has been fined after putting householders at risk over many years after he repeatedly carried out gas fitting work while unqualified and unregistered. Andrew Barnes, trading as APB Home Services Ltd, was found to have undertaken gas fitting work dating back to 2006.

On investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that he deliberately and consistently pretended to be officially registered with Gas Safe and its predecessor, CORGI.

Andrew Barnes was given a three year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £600 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. APB Home Services was fined £300 and ordered to pay costs of £525 for a single breach of the same Regulations.


Landlord prosecuted for carbon monoxide death

A Derbyshire landlord received a suspended sentence for failing to maintain a gas boiler that resulted in the death of her tenant.

Stephen Newton was found dead by his friends on 29 December 2009 after he had succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.  

A National Grid Gas employee visited the house in 2008 to replace the gas meter. The boiler was labelled ‘Immediately Dangerous' due to ‘fumes at open flue' and was disconnected. A report was sent to the property addressed to the landlord, but this was not passed on to the landlord.


Before renting the property, the landlord arranged for a gas safety check to be completed before Stephen Newton moved in.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, the landlord (Victoria Martindale) was sentenced for breaches of gas safety laws. She was given a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also given 200 hours community service and fined £4,000, and was ordered to pay costs of £17,500.
Seasonal Myth... From the HSE

Myth: Indoor Christmas lights need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year.

The reality

Lots of companies waste money in the false belief they need to test their Christmas lights annually, or even don't put them up at all! By following a few sensible precautions, such as checks by the user for obvious signs of damage, every workplace can switch on safely and sparkle!

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Health and Safety
Fire Safety
Water Safety
Asbestos
Training