Health and safety is not that difficult, all you need to do is understand where hazards are, and where the holes can appear in your business’s controls, and then make sure you have covered them over.
Your first control should always be "can I eliminate the problem?". If you can change the process or the use of a certain product then do it. If you cannot get rid of the hazard then look at the Swiss Cheese model.
In the Swiss Cheese model of health and safety you can see that the incident occurs when holes appear in all of our defensive measures. If we are lucky it is a near miss (no loss is incurred) if we are not so lucky then a life changing injury to a member of staff or public occurs.
The control measures are in a hierarchy of control list so you should always prioritise engineering controls, then administrative (procedural) and finally behavioural ones.
🟧 Engineering controls are those that you can touch and feel - such as guarding on a machine, a fire door or fixed barrier to stop you stepping out in front of a vehicle.
🟧 Administrative controls are anything that is written down. This would cover your risk assessments, permit to work systems, standard operating procedures, accident reporting and investigation systems.
🟧 Behavioural controls are your soft skills and include the culture of your organisation, training that you give staff, mentoring of your workforce and can include the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that you provide for them to wear.
🟧 Finally Mitigating Actions are ways to stop the situation becoming worse e.g. qualified first aiders, spill kits to stop the spread of a contaminated substance into a water way.
As the owner / director of the business one of your many jobs is to continually monitor what is happening within your company. This is a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act Section 2.2.C. You have to ensure that you inform, instruct, train and supervise your employees. The monitoring element is covered under supervision and therefore you are continually looking for where the holes are appearing or could be about to appear. Think about changes that you are planning for the business.
Examples would include taking on a new member of staff (young person does not know the rules), moving into that new building you have been working towards for the last two years (vehicle movements in service yard, sharing the premises with other users), or winning that new contract that will require the purchase of new equipment (who is going to service and maintain it).
If you do all of the above, then you are on the way to having a safe and secure business and workforce. Which should be sweet music to your ears 😊
- Alastair Barrett MRICS, CMIOSH, CMaPS, OSHCR | Managing Director What No Safety Services Ltd (EC approved supplier)