Caution sign on wet floor

In many organisations, health and safety responsibilities are placed in the hands of HR departments. Although human resources professionals are not expected to be health and safety specialists, they must ensure that best practices are in place, policies implemented and that the right culture is fostered.

Here are five tried and tested methods proven to really bring results:

Promoting the right message

Health and safety can often be viewed as a mere box to tick, or worse – a waste of time. The way health and safety is presented in the workplace is very much key to how it will be perceived, and truly promoting a culture of safety – keeping the message fresh and alive – can be a very effective way to enforce safer practices across the board.

For instance, health and safety displays at the entrance of workshops or in resting areas are common, but it can be a challenge to keep employees revisiting them, and they can easily become invisible through familiarity.

Counting days without incidents, updated daily, with seasonal messages, is an easy way to inject a bit of fun, timeliness and life to these boards.

Encouraging debate

Health and safety benefits from much better buy-in when entire teams are involved, as employees are more personally engaged (as opposed to when they feel rules and regulations are imposed upon them).

As an example, Kier Group – construction and property specialists awarded a distinction at British Safety Council’s 2013 International Safety Awards – enjoyed some real success following the launch of their Positive Safety Leadership Programme. The programme encourages team members to actively discuss safety issues, and the number of reported health and safety conversations has increased since the beginning of the campaign.

Key to the success of the programme is its focus on positive safety leadership, not only from directors, but from every staff member and contractor on site. Business-wide introductory courses to health and safety, especially these with practical examples facilitating interactive learning, will also help ensure that everyone feels concerned.

Learning from mistakes

Not only is the recording and reporting of accidents and ill health at work a legal requirement under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), but good record-keeping is also instrumental in reducing injury rates.

By tracking and reporting accidents, even the smallest ones, a better understanding of the risks present in the workplace will be gained, therefore making incidents more preventable. If possible, hazards should be removed once identified; clutter or damage on floors, spillages, trailing cables, unsafe equipment, etc. If not, staff should be warned about potential dangers, whether by warning signs, barriers or better lighting.

Staff education also plays a vital role in preventing incidents once common hazards have been identified. Depending on the type of workplace, this can range from stressing the importance of wearing personal protective equipment to enforcing refresher courses for the use of specific machines or chemicals.

Learning by example

Gaining lessons from others’ successes is as important as learning from one’s mistakes. It also sends a much more positive message to staff, and is therefore likely to meet more success.
Members of staff responsible for health and safety should be allowed time to monitor organisations similar to theirs awarded health and safety accolades, in an effort to get some inspiration from measures taken.

If practically possible, staff members directly concerned could also be encouraged to actively seek out good practice from external site visits. Again, involving the staff facing hazards on a daily basis into finding solutions to mitigate risk will create a much more positive health and safety culture.

Going beyond health and safety at work

Above all, the health and safety campaigns that have proven successful in the recent years seem to have one common denominator: health and safety doesn’t start when the office doors open, and finish when they close.

A more holistic approach to health and safety, addressing the overall wellbeing and welfare of staff beyond the workplace, delivers strong results.

UK’s largest food producer Premier Foods – awarded at the 2013 Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Awards – focused its efforts to reduce injury and illness at work by promoting preventive methods. Their Healthy Week annual campaign encourages employees to try and make small changes to be a bit safer and healthier, with activities ranging from voluntary blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checks to healthy cooking demonstrations or talks on diet and health.

Also addressing the issue of welfare beyond working hours, BAE System – providers of ammunitions to the British Army and highly commended at the 2013 RoSPA Awards – ran a Start Safe, Talk Safe, Home Safe initiative. Commenting on the campaign, Head of Health and Safety Ian Smith said: “We want people to come to work safely and talk about safety all the time so it’s in the culture when they’re at work. Through working correctly, they go home safely, including their travel, so it’s the whole cycle.”

Sabelline Chicot is a a writer and editor working in digital publishing. She covers a wide range of business matters, from human resources to online security and health & safety. You can follow her on Twitter at @sabellinechicot.