Safer delivery equals a safe workplace
28 May 2014
Nicki Stewart looks at the active role of the employer in creating a safe workplace.
Ensuring a thorough health and safety approach is adopted by all employees can be a difficult task, given that high-turnover rates are common and businesses are increasingly choosing to employ people on temporary contracts. The problem can become even more complex when companies employ interns and offer work experience placements.
What’s the risk?
A lack of attention in this area can lead to workplace injuries and subsequent negligence claims so a number of departments need to play a pro-active role in preventing these.
For new starters, the risk of workplace injuries occurring can be greater than for those who’ve been in post for longer. New staff may be unfamiliar with key procedures, such as how to use certain pieces of equipment. In addition, general unfamiliarity with the workplace means employees are at greater risk of potential slips, trips and falls. Compounding this is the fact that new employees are often less inclined to raise safety issues or concerns, often because they want to make as good an impression as possible. It is therefore important that line managers ensure that employees understand that they will not be looked upon unfavourably if they raise any concerns about safety.
What active role does the employer play?
Although health and safety professionals provide the content and direction of relevant communication with staff, the role of the employer is to identify and act upon opportunities to inform. This works by liaising closely with the relevant experts (whether internal or external) in order to obtain the right input. This should then be fed into the induction stage, with adherence to health and safety procedures and practices being clearly communicated. However, this introduction should be only part of a wider programme of regular updates and where possible, practical sessions that inform and reinforce safety information and practices. Although in-house updates will incorporate temporary staff, it is important that businesses make a special effort to ensure health and safety information is a core part of introducing interim employees to an organisation.
If companies do source training externally, for example when organising for new equipment to be installed, it is vital that the organisation in question invites the manufacturer or distributor to talk staff through how to use it, to ensure training is as comprehensive as possible. It is also under the employer’s duty to distribute health and safety-related signage and literature and check that up-to-date legislation falls in line with the company’s current approach. Again, seeking advice from relevant professionals about any required training is important and often, essential.
Supporting a safety-aware workplace
Within any organisation, it’s vital that health and safety procedures are regularly revisited and reviewed, to help ensure employees are as familiar with these as possible. It is not sufficient for this to be one-way: staff members should be asked to sign a declaration stating that they understand any procedure, update or training session they’ve received.
The employer has a key role to play when enforcing health and safety legislations, in order to help address any gaps in understanding from a staff viewpoint – on a one-to-one basis if necessary. Without instigating regular updates and communication exercises and, vitally, triggering business owners to endorse and support this approach, it could only be a matter of time before a workplace injury occurs that could have been easily avoided.
Nicki Stewart is Head of Facilities Supplies at Office Depot.
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