Health and Safety Health and safety culture – what needs to change?

Integrating good health and safety practises into the culture of a business is one of the best ways to get employees on board with regulation. Here, Matthew Bailey, Divisional Manager – Inspection & Certification at

Matthew Bailey.

HCL Safety, explores the significance of this in creating a safe working environment.

Health and safety has improved considerably across Britain over the years, with workplace fatalities reduced to 27 during 2016-17 in comparison to 37 fatalities the previous year . Alongside legislation and regulation, factors such as improved risk assessment, better safety procedures, as well as training and technological advances in equipment are all playing a part. However, despite the risks which come

with certain tasks, like when working at height, unsafe practices could still be carried out. Facilities managers, and those working in the premises they manage, could be at risk when it comes to health and safety. There are no second chances when working at height, and so it is vital for the culture around health and safety to reflect this. According to the Health and Safety

Executive (HSE), the safety culture of an organisation is the result of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour. These determine the commitment to, and the style of, an organisation’s health and safety management.

Identifying barriers is the first step

If a business possesses a negative safety culture, along with poor leadership and direction, employee engagement is inevitably going to be low. Something must be done to safeguard employees – especially those open to higher levels of risk. This isn’t about a Facilities Manager having a command and control mindset. The focus here should be much more on daily habits, changing attitudes and working on the way employees think. Key considerations when improving culture around health and safety include:

Commitment and behavioural based thinking

It is important to look at the level of resource allocated to health and safety and

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the precedence it has over aspects of the business such as cost or profit. If employees see the main focus being commercial benefit, it’s unlikely they will think the business cares very much about safety. The involvement senior management has

with health and safety practices is also worth noting. Managers are seen to lead by example, so if they are behind health and safety others will follow. So, it is key for Facilities Managers to engage senior management and leadership teams when trying to influence the wider workforce. Behavioural based thinking takes this into

consideration and is used across several industries to improve safety. Driven from the top of an organisation, management should promote individual responsibility across all levels to help change perceptions of health and safety. Above all, health and safety should be the

number one priority and any accidents and near misses should be well documented by Facilities Managers.

Communication across the business

For a positive health and safety culture to be adopted, all levels of the business need to take ownership for safety. Taking questions from employees on

health and safety seriously is key to keeping morale high. Management has a duty to take questions on board and actively seek feedback from Facilities Managers on what employees are saying.

The importance of training

Providing effective training is vital. However, businesses need to understand not all training will be up to scratch. Training is designed to change perceptions and improve standards – something which is especially important when working at height where the risks can be very high. Training can be particularly useful to help decide, for example, what methods should

be adopted to deal with less frequently undertaken work – maintenance or repairs for instance. A lack of familiarity with procedures, surroundings and even other work colleagues are undeniably major factors that can make working at height more hazardous than it should be. Dedicated training providers will ensure

thorough guidance is delivered to all participants, leaving them feeling engaged with the knowledge and understanding to do their jobs even better.

Education and culture

Across the industry, education and training is being ramped up to ensure safety is at the forefront of people’s minds. This is clear to see in vocational education, where safety training is now incorporated into the teaching syllabus. This is a big step towards ensuring the future workforce is aware of the risks which come with working at height. If we look at the current workforce, there

can be of a lack of importance placed on safety at height. This could be due to factors such as complacency, especially if they may have worked in the industry for many years. Nevertheless, education and training are key to improving safety practices at height.

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