Educate your boss

04 December 2018

Persuading your boss to take health and safety seriously is no easy task, but a recent webinar from Southalls provided some tips to help you achieve this.

HOW DO you know if your boss is taking health and safety seriously? The recent webinar 'How to convince your boss to take health and safety seriously' from Ian Hatherly and Andy Hall from Southalls, outlined how you can help your boss comply.

There is a lot of talk about Safety Culture, and the HSE has produced a check-list, which is a useful tool-kit you can work through, and this will help you assess your safety culture.

Directors and line managers need to understand that they can delegate responsibility for health and safety to others, but they still remain accountable. “You cannot give that accountability away. When it comes to legal accountability they still can be kept in check,” said Andy.

The webinar gave many examples of what happens when things go wrong, including one where an employee became caught in an unguarded machine, and monitoring was the key issue. The investigation revealed that had the company adequately maintained guarding around the conveyor a fatal accident could have been avoided. The area manager received a 12-month custodial sentence for manslaughter and the company received a substantial fine, paying costs as well.

“It is very important to drive home this message that directors are accountable,” said Andy.

The law

The overarching bit of legislation Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a legal duty on the employer to protect his employees under section 2, and under section 3 to protect anyone else who enters that business or is affected by its undertaking, which could be members of the public or contractors, who often get forgotten. We have a duty to protect these people as far as reasonably possible.

There is also section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which Southalls uses fairly frequently to remind employees that they also have a duty. They have to act safely, look after themselves and not interfere with anything to with safety, for example, disabling a guard on a machine because they think there is a quicker way of doing it.

Seat belts on lift trucks is one example that Ian focuses on in the webinar, and is quite a topical example. The law on fork lift truck seat belts has not changed, and since 2003 it has said that where seat belts are fitted, they should be worn.

“Until the last three or four years there has been a common and not incorrect view on the matter, that actually if you were order picking or jumping on and off a truck regularly then actually you probably didn't need to put your seat belt on, and that was risk assessed and was relatively acceptable.”

You need to know what is best practise within your industry. While the law has not changed around seat belt use, but what has critically changed is the case law. An example Ian gave to the webinar listeners was from September 2017 a PVC maker was prosecuted over the death of a 19-year-old whose fork lift overturned. The individual was driving his fork lift down a slightly sloping roadway and it slid on the concrete and the rear tyre clipped off the edge of the ramp and the truck overturned. As the individual was not wearing his seat belt, he fell out and he was crushed by the fork lift. The HSE investigation found that there was problems with the lighting and the road and some other issues too, but critically they said that in this scenario, then the injury would not have been so severe, and may not have resulted in a fatality. The company was fined £450,000.

Ian said, “It is critical that you are feeding your boss this information. The case law is now there so if in your business, as of tomorrow, you are still not using seat belts on fork lift trucks at all times, then your owners and directors need to be aware that they are very vulnerable in the event of an accident.

“It is all about education. If you have someone who has been operating a fork lift for 25 years, and they are not interested in wearing a seat belt as nothing has ever happened, then you need to start the educational process. Ultimately, you need the backing from the top to crack down on it.”

React to change

Businesses need to react to change and build health and safety in from the start of any change. Changes include staffing, materials and practices. When new people come into a business they need to be trained, and likewise, when people are moved to a new part of the business, it is equally important that their training is relevant.

“Making sure you have a training structure in place and cover things in induction. Have directors factored in how long that takes. It takes time for people to have the confidence to operate. Equally, there are sudden changes, like poor health, or agency staff. A simple training matrix can be really effective and help you manage your training.”

If materials change, then you may need to handle them differently. Or if there are changes to chemicals, then there might be implications of COSHH regulations. “Every time you order a product in that is hazardous, then you need to be considering PPE and risk assessment at the point of purchase, so before it goes into use we have already picked that up,” adds Andy.

At the start of any change to work practise, you need to consider health and safety. Something simple changing in production, for example a factory bringing welding in house because it is cheaper, you would need to consider training, LEV, PPE and much more.

Sentencing guidelines

If you still can't convince your owners about the importance of health and safety, then it is time to get to scare territory.

On looking at the motivations for managing health and safety in terms of moral, legal and financial implications, Ian said: “Before the sentencing guidelines came in in 2016, which you will all be critically aware of, I'd argue that everything had quite a nice 33% split on why they wanted to manage health and safety properly. But actually, now the financial element is becoming more critical.

“Ultimately, the government decided that the fines did not reflect what was actually happening. In the real world they was seeing fatalities and serious injuries by big corporations, and the fines were so negligible that actually, in terms of board level, the probably weren't that concerned. If the moral compass was not that high in the business and they were more worried about money,  it really wasn't sticking.”

Show your boss the new sentencing guidelines and work out what fines the business would face if it all went wrong. You can very quickly move from a medium culpability to high by failing to put into place industry recognised standards.

Once you pick an accident that you could have and work backwards, you could find out what it could cost the business.

“There is no insurance against a criminal law fine for the regulator. That will come off the bottom line of the business,” highlighted Ian.

Tesco's roll cage fine in August last year, from an accident five years before, and they had an eight ties multiple on their fine. Ian said, “This was part sentencing guidelines, and part because they had a previous offence. Ultimately, the value of the fines is going up and it's making people notice.”

The laws on manslaughter changed on the 1 November 2018, meaning there will be increased jail terms for gross negligent manslaughter to fall in line with other manslaughter offences within the UK.

Andy says, “Negligent employers and managers over the age of 18 in England and Wales, who blatantly disregard employee safety, could be sentenced up to 18 years in prison under these guidelines. If your director is still struggling and you are really concerned that you have safety issues within your business you need to make it very clear they could potentially go to prison.”

Ian Hatherly is operations director at Southalls and Andy Hall is team leader at Southalls. For more information, visit

You can listen to the full webinar on demand at


Are there any corporate manslaughter directors responsibilities presentations that I can obtain and use to create one for my own chief executive?

IH: There are a lot on Google, but the place that I would go is the Health and Safety Executive's website. If you search Legal Responsibilities for Owners, or similar to that, there is a document on there called Leading Safely. It takes you through eight key questions that directors and owners need to be aware of, and secondly gives you key bits of information that you could use to put together a presentation.

What sort of training should we be asking directors to complete?

AH: There is specific training out there for directors making them aware of what their legal responsibilities and duties are, and that is something we can provide. There is an IOSH course based around training directors, and we can run that for you.

Any idea how we can effectively communicate health and safety across multiple dispersed locations?

AH: That is something we are very familiar with as a business, and it is something that we have got examples of with many clients. The easiest way we find to do that is perhaps installing safety reps within different departments or sites. A lot of it is down to investment and training, and that can be done through a safety handbook. This can be rolled across all your sites, and if this is accompanied with a set of questions that everyone has to answer to demonstrate that they understand the key points.

How does a PPE vending machine work, does it involve charging – as section 9 of the Health and Safety at Work Act says no?

AH: Most of the vending machines you now see are normally in agreement with a company like Arco. I have seen a few that have been provided by Arco, employees have a swipe card or a log-in and they can type into the keypad and select the PPE. You'd need to discuss costs with Arco as they would be selling it to you anyway. You can track on the software who is removing what and when. But the employees won't be paying. It makes PPE provision a lot quicker and simpler.

How can I get our MD to attend each health and safety committee meeting?

IH: This is part of the whole process. If the MD wants to demonstrate that they take it seriously, it is daft of them not to attend. The critical element is how often you have these meetings. They will be business based. I think having them on a monthly basis is probably too much, and is sometimes where you lose the impact and the effect of it. For a really busy high risk business you might be looking at quarterly. If you get your meeting level right, you are more likely to get the MD. The question you should be asking your MD is, “How often do you think is sensible to have these meetings, and how often can you attend.”

Next webinar

HSM and Southalls will be running another webinar on 6 March 2019 at 10:30am. It is titled: '2019 Health and Safety Check - Are you Prepared?' and will explain that planning is the key to ensuring your health and safety arrangements really work. Your business needs to be compliant every single day of the year, not only a few weeks following the accident, when you try to salvage your reputation.

You can register to attend for FREE at