Having a workplace that keeps employees, customers and visitors, safe from harm is essential to a businesses success. Businesses that don’t comply with health and safety legislation can lose employees and customers, face temporary or permanent closure, legal fines and even prosecution!
No matter what industry you’re in, managing health and safety is essential – All workplaces face different challenges, with some sectors being inherently more dangerous than others (e.g. construction compared to office work). When working in an environment that seems risk-free, it can be much easier to overlook several health & safety issues.
Health and safety issues like manual handling or slips, trips and falls can occur in any workplace; these issues can easily be forgotten about but that does not make them any less important/ Staff members could develop serious health problems (like musculoskeletal disorders, which are common in many workers) when issues are ignored or not properly controlled.
Having an internal health and safety department can be beneficial but it also has its downsides – They can often overlook safety issues and can be expensive to keep a full-time health & safety staff member(s). Having access to an independent consultancy can help you to see the bigger picture and identify every potential hazard.
Many companies choose to outsource their health and safety, to help make safety simple and easy by having access to health and safety consultants that are educated and experienced in health and safety law, this ensures compliance with current UK legislation.
When looking at internal health and safety departments, there are five main mistakes which are commonly made.
1. Not Identifying & Making Assumptions About Health Hazards
When dealing with your own health and safety, it can be easy to overlook or completely miss potential health hazards. This is because when you spend more time in an environment, you’re less likely to notice new hazards – Having a fresh set of eyes can really help with this!
There are many different types of potential hazards (e.g. falls, chemical issues, ventilation, mechanical, etc), the failure to identify these could result in serious injury in the workplace. This could lead to employees or even customers reporting your premises or even taking the business to tribunal or court, which can lead to hefty fines and compensation payouts.
If health hazards are not identified, the company could be seen as negligent and could have an impact on the recruitment and turnover of employees. If your business has a reputation for not having a safe working environment, existing & potential employees may be put off and even customers may decide to no longer give you their custom. Staff and customers alike feel more valued when their health and safety is taken seriously!
2. Having an Untidy & Unorganised Workplace
It may seem like common sense to keep workspaces clear of clutter and well organised, but it is often overlooked when regarding health and safety. Keeping the workplace tidy and organised can significantly reduce the number of accidents and potential health hazards.
Taking the time to clean up and tidy can often be seen as a waste of time by senior management, this is one of the biggest mistakes of internal health and safety! Having messy corridors & hallways and clutter blocking emergency or fire exits can be a huge health hazard, blocking staff & customers path to safety!
If the internal health and safety team does not spot these hazards, they may get used to how the workplace looks and forget about the potential hazards it can cause. Depending on the size of the workplace, this can be easily resolved by taking a few minutes at the end of shifts to tidy things away and reorganise.
3. Poor Safety Training
Many workplace accidents and injuries can be easily avoided if employees are educated and trained in how to handle hazards. Many accidents in the workplace are caused by human error, therefore educating staff on potential hazards can reduce the likelihood of this error.
Oftentimes, internal departments provide safety training that is inadequate or outdated, this is one of the biggest mistakes in health and safety – Having access to online training courses can be beneficial as these courses can be updated regularly and can be more interactive.
Research has shown that the more engaging training courses lead to more effective responses when faced with hazards, and less engaging training can lead to less effective responses. Having access to regular safety training, that is engaging and relevant to the specific workplace can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring.
4. Putting Off Maintenance, Inspections & Testing
A large number of businesses rely on some form of machinery, and keeping it running is often essential to keeping business running. However, when machinery hasn’t run into problems for some time, it can lull us into a false sense of security and making sure they’re safe and well maintained can be forgotten about easily.
If machines break, this can have a huge impact on companies’ health & safety and productivity! Not only can this mean that some work can no longer go on, but it could also be a potential hazard to employees – Who could injure themselves trying to fix the problem.
Ensuring that all machinery in your workplace is regularly inspected, tested and maintained can reduce this risk! This is crucial to the health and safety of everyone who enters your premises, doing regular testing like PAT (portable appliance testing) can ensure all your businesses machinery is safe to be used.
5. Ignoring Staff Mental Health
Problems concerning mental well-being are one of the biggest causes of time off work – Employees who already struggle with their mental health and even those who don’t can be negatively affected by workplace stress. This can have a serious impact on their health, productivity and safety!
The Mental Health Foundation reports that one in six people in the last week have experienced one of the common mental health issues (depression, anxiety, drug use, etc) – That’s a lot of potential employees who are struggling with their mental health, this is why protecting their physical and mental health is so important.
Having high job satisfaction can reduce the feeling of stress and potentially leads to better mental well-being. HSE suggests that designing jobs with employee satisfaction in mind can increase productivity levels significantly and reduce workplace stress.
Additionally, having training courses that can help staff to deal with the stress in the workplace (e.g. stress management training) can be very beneficial and help staff members to cope with their workload.
If you want a FREE health and safety consultation with one of our experts, fill out our online contact form. Alternatively, you can speak to an advisor by calling 0330 400 5490.
Colin is an experienced health and safety professional with experience of working in both the public and private sectors. He boasts a wealth of experience in dealing with a range of legislation and health and safety related issues.
His health and safety qualifications include achieving the NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, the NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety, and the NEBOSH Fire Safety and Risk Management Certificate. Additionally, he is also a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).