Platinum are committed to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of our staff, often considered a ‘blind spot’ within organisations. Here Glen Cardinal discusses how Platinum’s culture embodies the values of health and safety.
When it comes to health and safety, there’s more than meets the eye. It seems today, we still think of health and safety in terms of what we can physically see. The things that happen out of sight are often left forgotten, out of legislation and out of workplace practices. However, the less obvious hazards should be taken just as seriously. In fact, as we move toward an ever more digitalised world, we need to find ways of putting all aspects of health and safety in the limelight. Training programmes, regular monitoring and reviews can also help pave the way for an environment where the general health and wellbeing of your staff are ensured.
Changes in technology require a different approach to health and safety measures. At Platinum, our Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) department work in tandem with myself to create a three-year business plan which is implemented across the entire business. Whilst creating these plans, we look in detail at new equipment and changes in technology which will affect our services. Historic company health and safety data is used to pave the way forward as well as looking at our approach to legislation and any new environments which we will be working in. Our human resources department is then involved with the process so that changes to staff are also considered in the development stages of the plan. As the company grew and legislation changed, it became a natural process to consider relevant legislation affecting the business. I now believe firmly that in this technical age, such detailed plans are necessary to combat potential health and safety threats.
The key to protecting people and avoiding accidents in the workplace is in the provision of adequate training. Platinum’s culture is based on the premise that all staff are equipped with the knowledge to recognise whether an area or piece of work is unsafe. Staff undergo new equipment training which lessens the chance of future accidents and risks. Furthermore, we always have a technically trained member of staff to conduct the pre-tender site visit. These team members have vital experience in identifying key risks such as whether the site has low or high voltage, if the site requires specialist equipment and whether specialist staff would be needed on said site. Following this, a competently trained SHEQ member of staff undertakes an observational site visit, focusing on noise, dust, vibration, substances hazardous to health (COSHH in other words) risk of asbestos, heat and humidity. They also look to see if any more obvious hazards could take place: lifting mechanisms, life lines and riser cupboards, for example. As you can imagine, effective staff training is essential for these kinds of site visits in order to identify problems at an early stage.
At Platinum we are also committed to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of our staff – often a blind spot in organisations, purely because it is internal and personal. It is no secret nowadays that stress can be a silent killer. There is a myriad of documentaries on the subject, regular seminars on the impact of stress at work and a variety of national campaigns have been created in the hope to increase awareness. While great advances have been made in the workplace for mental wellbeing, there is still a way to go.
In our job offer pack, we include a medical questionnaire that asks about previous experiences with stress. Our HR department then reviews and communicates any information which is necessary to be shared with the line manager, to make sure anyone with previous medical issues is sufficiently looked out for. Beyond the initial questionnaire, it is important to recognise changes in employee behaviour, which could indicate that your employee is under a lot of stress. It’s a good idea to create databases that list all high stress related activities and then monitor those employees who are working in these conditions.
As much as you want to protect your staff at work, it’s also vital to remember that they have a life outside of their job that can also impact on their emotional and mental health. We are all now working longer days than ever before; people are working while travelling, during ‘downtime” and even on holiday with their family. Being constantly “online” negatively affects our mental health. A healthy work / life balance has been found to reduce staff turnover and staff sick days and thus we make a conscious effort, as a medium sized company, to encourage and support this.
Above all, it is in the spaces between the folds where accidents happen. Areas which are overlooked because they are invisible to the human eye are the spaces we need to be paying particular attention to.
The gaps in health and safety legislation are closing by the year. And they go beyond the physical high risk regulations that have been in place for deacdes. It’s now 2017, and we’ve come a long way in our ability to recognise mental health problems and to end stigmatisation of various illnesses. While it’s great to acknowledge our advances, it is important to remember that mental health cannot be physically seen – we can indeed spot the signs and symptoms of stress but cannot tangibly diagnose as an employer.