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Training partner - June 2019

30 April 2019

With the current focus on climate change, organisations need to take environmental issues more seriously, says Gary Fallaize and training is a good place to start to provide safer and healthier working environments.

IF YOU follow the news with its dire climate change warnings; forecasting large sections of the world uninhabitable, billions of displaced people, water and food shortages, etc, you would assume that environmental issues areat the top of everybody’s agenda. With a mere 10-20 years to act on these warnings according to Sir David Attenborough, it does not seem to be considered by many as an immediate priority, with profits or votes of far more immediate importance to some.

Health and safety on the other hand gets much less media coverageandwhen it does it is mostly negative, often ignorant “elf & safety” stories, along with the cries to deregulate from some of our political classes. I have even heard the view that a successful departure from the EU would bring an end to all these unnecessary regulations like “health & safety”, but while penning this piece we are still in the EU (although that could change at any time).

At RRC we are observing more organisations taking environmental issues seriously, with a significant increase in interest in environmental management training. However the popularity of environmental training is still small-scale compared to Health & Safety training, which remains the main focus of many organisations training priorities.

The key driver for investment in health & safety is that poor management of it can create immediate harm along with negative publicity. The press does not help, in one breath berating “killjoy health & safety” and on the other demanding directors go to prison when incidents go wrong - often with little attention to the facts. Bad press can destroy a business especially when it involves death or serious injury to workers, the human damage (although limited to those immediately affected) is something we cannot imagine unless experienced. I only have second hand experience of when things go drastically wrong.There was a death at my son in law’s workplace and I witnessed the emotional trauma he went through in losing a fellow worker. A powerful message as to why health and safety is so immediately important.

My current experience of climate change to date is somewhat different. Pleasant warmer weather and more storms; the former I will admit is much enjoyed, the latter has cost a few pence in panels - a minor expense in the grand scheme of things. I appreciate others are not so lucky, with severe long term implications forecast for many around the world;but much of our own personal views are shaped from our experiences.

Regulation naturally plays its part in directing organisation and our individual behaviours. There is a significant body of Environmental & Health and Safety legislation in the UK to enforce adherence to the law, (perhaps not well enough resourced). Environmental regulations cover control of pollution, and the conservation and management of land - which only have significant impact on larger organisations. What is more significant is government policy seeking to enforce or encourage behavioural change on the population as a whole; vehicle emissions, charges on disposable plastic bags etc. Health & Safety has a more established body of legislation applicable to all organisations, large and small. And the “occupational” precursor to health & safety clearly identifies it solely as a responsibility for organisations, with no significant responsibility for the population as a whole.

Organisations can choose to do more to reduce their impact on the environment (and some do), reducing the use of plastics, packaging, waste and more, but the drivers for this are profitability so without regulation companies have little incentive to do so. After all, the planet has a good 20 years left, perhaps 30.

With health and safety, organisations must comply with the law. Whilst the vast majority do, nevertheless, others choose to go further - seeking to build effective and proactive safety cultures with all in the organisation engaged in building safer, better workplaces.

Well thought out and delivered training / education is key to developing successful and environmental cultures within organisations. Whilst it is essential to comply with legislation, far more value can be obtained from training investment if the wider benefits of competent health & safety and environmental management are considered. Safe, healthy working environments boost productivity, reduce costs, plus help to avoid any adverse PR. Effective environmental management can be a real business plus, reducing costs and engaging employees on a bigger and better purpose. Saving the planet is a morally righteous action that most employees will buy into, and provides an excellent impression to external audiences of your organisation.

Enough of my musing for this month, you can look forward to more on developing and delivering effective training in the next issue.

Gary Fallaize is managing director at RRC. For more information, visit www.rrc.co.uk