Can You “Bottle” Good Health and Safety?

Richard Mills, The RedCat Partnership

What actually is health and safety? What do I actually have to do?? A Health and Safety Wizard’s overview of what you need in your potion cabinet, to work some safety magic over your business.....

Wouldn’t it be great if you could crack open a bottle, and pour out a magic potion that made your workplace completely safe and removed the worry of accidents and workplace illness? A fanciful idea, but it made me think, and ask myself for the umpteenth time, “what exactly is health and safety?” If I had to have an essential set of potions to get me started, this is what I’d have...

Potion 1; “Essence of Leadership” It’s an old but very true cliché that if the senior management aren’t committed, it won’t happen. Just as relevant to health and safety as any other issue. Some management styles are safer; others can be toxic.

Potion 2; “Eye Drops” This potion opens your eyes to the fact that health and safety is a management activity, and shares a common platform with any other management activity. Plan what needs doing, get organised, implement control measures, monitor them, use corrective action and review. Indeed, nothing new here, but it’s no placebo. This basic management cycle has a few tweaks to make it even more relevant to health and safety.

Potion 3; “Visible Ink” OK we need to mention the paperwork at some point, but effective policies and procedures (where necessary) are an important step forward. We can’t uncork the next bottle until we’ve got this bottle in the cabinet. Paperwork need not be onerous; for the majority of small businesses (less than 20 employees, say) this can mostly be found in one HSE leaflet; http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg259.pdf

Potion 4; “Essential Competence Oil” We all hear “our staff are our greatest asset;” well they are. Enabling and empowering our staff to act safely and carry out their jobs safely comes from a few gallons of this potion.

Potion 5; “Invisible Ink” As well as the written rules, the unwritten rules are equally important. This potion reveals your organisational culture, attitudes and beliefs. It will influence your visible behaviour, communication, involvement/consultation, and whether personal protective equipment is worn even when no-one is looking. One interesting thing I did learnt from a Chamber “High Five” event (speaker from Dow Chemicals) was that you don’t just do good health and safety; high standards in one area rub off on other functional areas too, such as quality management.

This list of potions is not meant as a comprehensive medicine chest, it’s meant as an indicator of the activities involved in managing a business with health and safety in mind. Also, there are no magic potions; in reality there is a fair bit of work involved in getting a business into good shape.........

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