The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has devoted a large amount of time and resources to help make the workplace safer for employees and the general public. While it’s impossible to eliminate every single risk and hazard, it is possible to minimise risks and take an intelligent approach to risk management. Understanding problem areas, documenting solutions, educating employees, and tracking progress are all part of the process of improving safety. However, it’s not about coming up with arbitrary edicts or bureaucratic back covering. It’s about devising principles that actually work in practise.
Protecting Workers and the Public
The first principle of sensible risk management is ensuring the safety of workers and the general public. often, this is as simple as documenting known hazards in the workplace and fixing problem areas before they injure someone. This is an important principle because it places the safety of people over everything else. By protecting individuals, a company can maximise its output and, ultimately, its profits.
This first principle of safety will guide a company’s internal policies and practises. For example, implementing the principle of safety would mean that a company does regular internal audits to assess any obvious health hazards. These may include hazards from using machinery and chemicals. Solutions may be devised such as simple protective clothing or improved processes that reduce the risk for injury.
Balancing Risks and Benefits
Every company needs to balance risks with benefits. If there is an intense focus on production, for example, at the expense of worker safety, the company may end up losing key members of its workforce due to injury. For this reason, the principle of balancing risks and benefits needs to be followed to provide employees with safe processes and machinery.
Enabling Innovation Through Safety
Every company relies on innovation to remain competitive. For example, a company may allow employees a relaxed office atmosphere with loose deadlines for creative work. However, creativity may come with risks – especially in workplace settings involving a shop or laboratory. A shop may have machinery that allows employees to design new variations of an existing product line. However, those machines may employ inherently dangerous processes like cutting, welding, or potentially harmful processes.
Left unchecked, a creative engineer could endanger himself if he is not careful with the machines he is using. Additionally, the machines themselves may not be made to deal with the types of processes that employees are using for experimentation purposes. For this reason, machines may need to be modified to improve safety, thus allowing creativity without sacrificing worker safety.
Sometimes, risky situations at work are unavoidable. For example, a science lab may store volatile chemicals. A factory may have hazardous and corrosive cleaners, a cooking or food-handling process may involve the potential for the introduction of harmful bacteria. In these situations, how an employee or manager handles the risk is important. Risk management is, sometimes, about damage control rather than prevention. Some cleansers, for example, pose a serious health risk every time they are used. For this reason, employees may need to limit exposure to such chemicals.
Assessing risks in the workplace and monitoring safety records is also important. Management needs to take an active role in documenting any injuries, potential hazards, implementation of solutions, and results of such implementation. Periodic reviews with employees, and training, are also necessary to ensure compliance. Only through diligence can a good safety record be maintained over the long-term.
About the Author
John Darling was a construction company manager of many years. Now retired, he enjoys keeping up the the latest building projects and writing about them on the web. Visit the link to learn more.