A question of trust

17 March 2015

This month, RoSPA’s workplace safety manager Rob Burgon joins the Great Business Debate and highlights some important changes to construction industry regulations.

The Great Business Debate is raging at the moment - how can public confidence in British business be improved?

The worthy campaign by the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) has raised many interesting questions and just as many answers, but one in particular has struck a chord here at RoSPA.

In her column on the Great Business Debate website, Nita Clarke OBE, director of IPA, posits that employees’ confidence and trust in management and the workplace must first be fully achieved, before wider trust is earned.

The figures quoted in the column make for stark reading - six out of 10 employees say they don’t trust their bosses. That’s 60% of the UK’s workforce that doesn’t trust their management, an incredible figure.

Health and safety can have a key part to play in improving this trust, and it works in two ways.

Having a demonstrable, proven track record of keeping employees safe will not only improve staff trust, but also that of customers and the wider public. The reputation of the business becomes one of caring for its employees, and therefore one of a business that cares about its future and in turn its potential customers.

Secondly, a trusting employee is generally a happy employee and a happy employee is less likely to have an accident in the workplace. Of course this isn’t the hard and fast rule, but a decline in morale can often lead to an increase in work-related health and safety incidents - and vice versa.

Good practice at work can kick off a cycle of steadily increasing employee morale and health and safety statistics. Trust for employees also has two added bonuses - it will increase productivity and positively affect their long-term health.

I wrote in my column recently about psychosocial risk factors in the workplace. Issues such as high workloads and tight deadlines have been mooted as potential causes of musculoskeletal disorders and triggers for stress. Trust in management and its processes can also be one of these factors, which can lead to stress-related changes in the body such as increased muscle tension, which can in turn lead to lowered productivity.

In its recent Management 2020 report, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) lists a range of key points which apparently show the low quality of management in today’s UK workplace, which is reflected in productivity and poor health and safety statistics.

In it, the CMI states that poor management could be costing UK businesses £19.3billion per year in lost working hours, while UK output per hour is 21% lower than the average across the rest of the G7.

Adopting good health and safety practice is clearly a win-win situation.

Elsewhere on the occupational health and safety front, as of April 6 several changes will come into force in the Construction (Design and Management) legislation, which will lead to an update to a number of competence-related regulations.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that the purpose of the changes is to provide clarity and help to 'assess and demonstrate that construction project teams have the right attributes to deliver a healthy and safe project', and in doing so regulations on everything from traffic routes to prevention of drowning are being updated.

Fortunately a handy guide is available on the Legal Reference section of the HSE website, where organisations affected by the updates will be able to make the necessary changes before the updates are ratified into law.

This is essential reading for all of those involved in the industry - ignorance of legislation and its associated guidance is not an excuse should something go wrong and a company ends up in court.