Every year, millions of people make New Year's resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, work out, save money, get a promotion and more. And yet, the vast majority of resolutions will have been abandoned before the last slice of Christmas cake is demolished.
One of the biggest reasons New Year's resolutions fail is because people aren't emotionally committed - they have created these goals because they felt pressured to do so. Another is because the goals they have set themselves aren't sustainable - is it honestly realistic to think you can give up sugary snacks indefinitely?
While this all relates to personal New Year's resolutions, the same principles apply in a workplace health & safety context. January is a great time to introduce new working practices, initiatives and objectives and to reset good safety habits as everyone returns to work refreshed and full of resolve after the Christmas break. However, with health & safety, there is no margin for objectives to fail, behaviours to slip, and enthusiasm to wane. Therefore, if new habits are to stick, they need to be sustainable and have emotional buy-in from employees.
This article outlines ten good health & safety habits that businesses should consider adopting and enshrining within their cultures during 2023.
PPE such as hard hats, goggles, gloves and boots play a vital role in managing health & safety risks. However, HSE figures show there are around 9,000 PPE-related incidents each year. The failure to use provided protective clothing usually comes down to poor management, communication and training. If workers don't understand why PPE is necessary and have no say in choosing it, they will likely not use it. Communication, consultation and training are often enough to ensure compliance. If workers complain PPE 'gets in the way', this can usually be overcome by selecting well-fitting equipment and involving workers in the selection process.
A screwdriver is not a chisel or pry bar. Nor is a ladder an acceptable substitute for scaffolding. Several health & safety incidents occur due to the equipment being used in a way that it was never designed for. Safeguards are likely to be ineffective when using tools in an unintended manner, increasing the risk of injury. Even if it is more expensive, the tool specific to the task is the only one that should be used. In the long run, this investment will optimise productivity and improve safety. It is also essential to ensure tools are kept in good condition and readily accessible.
All too often, training of new staff is rushed due to pressure to get them up to speed quickly, and health & safety training of established staff is put on the back burner because they have other, more pressing tasks to be getting on with. However, without proper training, employees may unknowingly put themselves and their coworkers in danger. Therefore it is essential that everyone has safety training relating to the specific hazards of their job. Follow up with regular retraining sessions to refresh knowledge and keep employees up-to-date on policies and procedures.
One of the most effective tactics for identifying potential hazards and assessing risks is dividing the workplace into zones and auditing them regularly by conducting safety walks. Safety walks, when executed well, are a great way of engaging staff at all levels and across all disciplines (office staff, cleaners, factory floor workers, management etc.), as they can be assigned to anyone.
Facilitate reporting of 'near-misses' Employees might not report near-misses because they see them as embarrassing or funny or just can't be bothered with the paperwork. The HSE suggests that there are around 90 near-misses for every accident that occurs at work. If that one injury is avoided, it makes reporting those 90 near-misses worthwhile. Therefore it is essential to foster a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting near-misses and where these are treated as a learning experience without negative consequences. To make it easy for employees to submit near-misses and ensure good data, consider allowing reports to be turned in anonymously.
Employees might not report near-misses because they see them as embarrassing or funny or just can't be bothered with the paperwork. The HSE suggests that there are around 90 near-misses for every accident that occurs at work. If that one injury is avoided, it makes reporting those 90 near-misses worthwhile. Therefore it is essential to foster a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting near-misses and where these are treated as a learning experience without negative consequences. To make it easy for employees to submit near-misses and ensure good data, consider allowing reports to be turned in anonymously.
Organisations should conduct risk assessments regularly as well as whenever there is a significant change in the workplace. Don't wait until it's too late before establishing what risks your workers face; seek them out and mitigate them proactively. The goal is to break the error chain before a near miss even occurs. In other words, don't be reactive when it comes to risk assessments - use them to find potential accidents before they happen.
Many health & safety incidents arise due to employees working with out-of-date, inadequate or damaged equipment. Perform regular inspections of machinery, equipment and tools. From hand drills to large shared vehicles, ensure that the machines employees use for their jobs are safe and function properly. Schedule preventative maintenance and when something breaks, repair or replace it right away.
Accidents happen when employees skip steps to complete a job ahead of schedule. They might be under time pressure due to inadequate staffing or are familiar with their job and have become complacent. At other times, they might deem a safety measure to involve too much effort. For example, a worker may decide not to don PPE or a safety harness because they only want to complete one small task and to gear up is time-consuming. The best way to ensure staff commitment to safety measures is to ensure they have enough time to carry out their job safely.
Poor housekeeping can introduce serious health & safety hazards. The workplace layout should have adequate footpath markings, be free of debris, and include stations for cleaning up spills. Housekeeping order is 'maintained', not 'achieved'; therefore, cleaning and organisation must be done regularly, not just at the end of the shift or day. Adopt a housekeeping programme that identifies and assigns responsibilities for clean-up during the daily clean-up, waste disposal, removal of unused materials and inspection to ensure complete clean-up.
Once a year, as well as after any accidents, review your organisation's safety policies and procedures. Do they still apply to the risks your employees face? If you have changed the way you perform a task, started using new equipment or tools, or moved to a new location, you should carry out risk assessments. When you update safety protocols, communicate the changes throughout your organisation. Send a company-wide email detailing the changes for minor updates, and provide updated training if a policy or procedure changes significantly.