It has always struck me as being a little strange that when it comes to health and safety there is often little management, let alone leadership. We wouldn’t leave the production process to its own ends because we know that it would likely go wrong and that would affect the bottom line. The trouble is that health and safety doesn’t add to the bottom line, there’s no profit in it, is there?

There are a few things that organisations should be familiar with in these regards, some of which are a matter of law and others a matter of money.

The law requires organisations to manage health and safety and without leadership any management efforts would be wasted. One phrase that one often hears is “my door’s always open”. A common problem with this is, it’s not always true. Sometimes we are simply too busy to enable the ideal of an open door policy. Not only that, but an open door doesn’t necessarily attract people to it.

We should identify what are the most effective ways to communicate with our employees. In all likelihood, how we deliver information or ask questions of people in the office wouldn’t necessarily work as well for people on “the shop floor”. Equally, communication is a two way process. Just as we need to establish an effective means of communicating with employees, we need to establish effective means of upward communication. Simply telling people to report any issues is rarely the most effective means of upward communication, yet it is possibly the most commonly used, for health & safety at least.

Employee representatives can be an effective means of establishing communication in both directions. Sometimes the workforce doesn’t engage with their representative. There may be all sorts of reasons for this but one thing’s for sure, something more, or something else, needs to be done.

If we look at organisations that have utilised effective leadership and have established communication in both directions, we will see that accidents and lost time incidents are reduced. We will also see that there are financial benefits. The Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service reported a reduction in liability insurance premiums of £100,000, a 50% reduction in workplace injury related sickness absence and a 50% reduction in injury incident rates over a 3 year period ₁.

There was a considerable effort to avoid losses during the construction phase of the London Olympics. A wellbeing program was utilised with the intention of reducing ill health. At the end of the process their performance was analysed and compared with other major construction projects throughout the UK. It was determined that there had been many benefits realised from this scheme. Just in terms of sickness absence, it was identified that for every £1 spent on the program there had been a return of £7.27 in reduced production costs ₂. The impacts were far reaching, well beyond the financial benefits realised within the project.

Programs such as these can have far reaching impacts on the individual workers and on society as a whole. If we can prevent people from suffering they are less likely to end up living on benefits. We could do with a smaller benefits bill. We would benefit if there was less demand on the services of the NHS too. Well, if we made less people ill or injured there would be less demand wouldn’t there? Of course, this goes beyond adding to our organisation’s bottom line, we’re now have a positive impact on our national economy. Now we all win.

These issues are amongst the topics covered in our IOSH Managing Safely training. For those who have already completed their Managing Safely training there is the refresher course, which takes the leadership and management aspects to another level. Why not come and join us?

 

  1. HSE
  2. Melodie Gilbert & Dr Marianne Dyer, London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority