Managing Health and Safety is not an easy process! There are a significant number of elements that go into a safety organisation and these need to cover all of the different activities, physical spaces and assets/resources utilised by the business.
Factor in that it needs cooperation and participation of anyone with management responsibility and the positive engagement of employees and other parties.
Then lay over the top of this, the need for an audit trail and robust record keeping to meet statutory requirements as well as the ability to satisfy enforcements agencies of your activities, not to mention Insurers in the event of an accident in the workplace and a subsequent Employers Liability claim.
Against all of this, you may have headwinds of operational friction where there is a lack of organisational accountability as well as cultural resistance to the "business prevention" department.
And superficially, there is no ROI on the cost that all of the above incurs against other financial pressures!
But what if all of the above was made just that bit harder by the health and safety management system itself?
If the Safety management system is hard to access, complicated or difficult to use, and lacks visibility, then this can lead, inadvertently to some or all of the following.
Poor or inadequate records can then impact Claims Defensibility, with subsequent cultural damage of a questionable claim being paid as well as the reaction in a HSE intervention.
At a wider level, this can also impact on future business valuation through the due diligence process, particularly for a business with high-risk activities.
Lower levels of safety activity, whether it's inspections, safety sampling, proactive monitoring of Control Measures, checking PPE or reviewing Risk Assessments, less of this activity will ultimately lead to lower levels of protection, greater exposure to incidents and claims, and an interruption to the business.
Lack of Engagement and Accountability in the business; we tend to do what is easy and put off what is difficult. This again reduces the protection in the business and can also create a negative attitude towards the safety process. Many H&S managers would like to spread the workload of H&S and wider engagement strengthens the protection safety management brings.
At the same time, it might also be adding to operational cost through increased input to achieve the desired outcome.
A risk management system that by its operation impacts the organisations’ ability to engage with and manage its risk exposures is part of the problem and not the solution.
Looking at the flip side of this, what if the management system could;
- Eliminate paper-based records, which by their nature can degrade
- Reduce the number of process steps – makes it easier to engage a wider population in the business
- Provide easy access for those who need to interact with it, for instance, completing a checklist or delivering a Toolbox Talk
- Create visibility of what is or isn’t being done and how well the organisation is complying with its own H&S requirements
- Produce lead and lag performance metrics, the former enabling the proactive management of risk
- Deliver Management Information & Reporting, in particular MI that helps the business leaders make informed data-based decisions.
- Reduce administrative time, allowing more time for management and analysis
- Make it possible to raise engagement and participation throughout the business in H&S activity
- Reduce the overall operational friction and cost of health and safety in the business
If we think of the health and safety management system as a critical component of the safety process rather than just a document and record repository, then we can start looking at it as a business enabler. This can help the business protect itself with the optimum operational impact and more “willing and able” business engagement.