Health and Safety at work is your responsibility, it’s your priority. It’s in your job title, it’s in your DNA. The difficulty is getting everybody else on board, right?
The rules and policies say that it’s EVERYBODY’s responsibility, but it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes when you look out across the factory floor, you despair.
You can put signs up to your hearts’ content but all that gets you is a lot of signs and no one reads them. Have a look around how many signs do you see? How many are really necessary and still valid.
What you want is a team with a safety mindset, a ‘safety culture’. People who are thinking about the accident before it happens…and stepping up to prevent it.
There are lots of ways to start developing a safety culture. As a trainer, I go into businesses and see different approaches all the time, some more successful than others.
I can tell immediately how seriously a place takes health and safety by how tidy it is. Slips trips and falls are still the biggest cause of workplace accidents and these should be fairly easy to avoid by maintaining a tidy workplace. Make sure people have time to stay tidy and are rewarded for it and set a good example.
There are loads of other techniques too, some good some not so good. I’ve seen places where there’s a safety manual to read and sign before I enter, a mirror to look in with the title ‘This Is Who Is Responsible For Your Safety’, method statements, risk assessments, permits to work, accident/near miss reporting, the celebration of low accident numbers. All these are great approaches, but they need engagement from staff.
I often find that staff don’t understand the why. They just do it because they’ve been told to and they resent it, so they do it with minimal engagement and no enthusiasm. I’m a believer in explaining why. You’ve adults working for you right? They are reasonably intelligent right? If no one has told them why then they’ve no reason to engage. Credit their intelligence and ask for their engagement.
Take this example – I’m teaching First Aid in a factory; they handle food and a hand full of staff have been put forward to be first aiders. Mid-morning, we are looking at completing accident records and when I ask;
‘Why do we need to complete these forms?’ most people think it’s because the information might be used in court if someone wanted to sue them for doing first aid badly (first aiders don’t get sued). People rarely know the real reason for completing accident forms is for preventing accidents. If you know what caused the accident you can work at removing the hazard keeping you and your colleagues safe at work and returning home safe and well every day. When I tell them this simple bit of information a light goes on.
The same applies to all health and safety procedures. They are not just things you have to do because the boss says so. They are there to protect you. Every one of them exists in response to something that actually happened somewhere once. If we can make people feel they have a stake in their own and others’ safety, we get a response. Risk assessments and method statements are nothing without staff reading, amending, and actioning them. Don’t file them away, keep them accessible and get people to add to them regularly with red pen. Have meetings that use accident forms (redacted) and risk assessment. Get staff thinking about what could go wrong…
Get your first aid training done on-site. I love to teach first aid on-site it helps me to deliver learning in context – ‘what kind of accidents might happen here?’ ‘how bad would that be?’ ‘do you want to be there when that happens?’ ‘how do we prevent it?’.
No-one wants to prevent accidents as much as a qualified first aider Get yourself an army of health and safety advocates on your side. The more first aiders you have, the more people you have who’ve really thought about the why and really don’t want accidents on site.
Don’t scrimp on your first aid training it’s the best health and safety campaign you’ll ever invest in.