As a Health & Safety professional I have often come across agonising groans from Employers and organisations having to pay to comply with the law pre Covid-19. Whether it’s a hard pressed finding the money to pay for their letter of good standing with workman’s compensation to something as small as buying PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for their employees .
Whilst it is obvious that these payments are crucial – after all who wants to pay fines for late payments to the fund, have unroadworthy vehicles with slick tyres on the road putting everyone at risk, or having to be that person to notify the family of one of your most valued employees of his/her death due to a preventable workplace accident or illness.
So even when we grumble, we end up paying, we pay for compliance, we pay for peace of mind and we pay because it is the right thing to do.
Paying for Health and Safety?
Getting the wallet out for health and safety, when it is often portrayed as a set of ridiculous rules enforced by joyless jobsworths that create a terrible burden on business, may seem like an unnecessary expense but not investing can be a false economy. If you think that safety systems and procedures are expensive, just try a serious accident. The impact can be enormous – sucking up oodles of management time, demoralising staff, reducing production, ruining reputations, increasing insurance costs…. and of course, injuring people and damaging assets.
There is no upside to this, a serious accident like someone slipping and falling on a wet, poorly lit floor and damaging their back will typically cost much much more than acting to reduce the risk of this happening in the first place. So, the first element of achieving health and safety within your budget is to recognise that it is a prudent investment even if the return is hard to measure.
How to save
There are two fundamental ways of saving money in health and safety. You can make your current systems and processes more efficient, which means working out how to achieve your aims with less resources or you can make your health and safety system more effective so that what you invest yields a greater benefit. Doing both would be ideal, to periodically review and see if there are any possible improvements is best of all and is actually a must considering the tough economic environment businesses operate in currently.
So, how to get the best from both worlds ang get real value for the money spent? It’s a twin- pronged strategy, so let’s begin with efficiency.
Efficient health and safety
It is possible to regard health and safety as a special, separate activity (majority of my colleagues in industry would punt this day in and day out) – so the production manager deals with production, the farm manager with the running of farm.… the warehouse manager, the transport manager, the ward sister etc etc. and then behind them, like a policeman, traffic officer, call it what you like, there is the health and safety officer. Getting the job done is left to the doers, and risk assessments, health and safety training and accident investigation is the job of the health and safety expert.
But that means that if you have a lot of health and safety to do, you need a large team? Not entirely true……Instead, you could integrate health and safety into the day-to-day responsibilities of those managers. Even better, instead of solely relying on them, you could develop a workforce engagement strategy designed to involve everyone in looking after themselves and each other, and they’ll do it as part of their normal work.
There have been multiple success stories regarding work integration, if done correctly and with absolute employee buy in.
Effective health and safety
What really excites H&S professionals is the prospect of making health and safety efforts more effective, and strangely the techniques include much of the above, especially worker engagement. It is extraordinary how many organisations fail to tap into the knowledge of their own staff to identify hazards, assess risks and decide on workable controls.
This is an opportunity to focus on what really matters, to make sure that the risks are real and significant, and that the precautions are effective. Ever heard employees say these rules and procedures are overkill? Why do we have to wear earplugs throughout the warehouse if the only noise zone was identified and made safe? Why do I have to wear safety shoes with midsole protection when there is no risk of nail or objects protruding from the floor? Why do I as employer have to issue my drivers with safety shoes each year, even if the previous pair is still in a good condition?
With an expert review of your accident and incident history, with slimming down and simplifying those risk assessment and procedures, you too can ensure that waste and ineffectiveness is eliminated from your health and safety system.
Don’t start from scratch, but don’t make assumptions
If you want to achieve health and safety on a budget, you need to look at your organisation and how it works with a fresh pair of eyes. That’s why so many reviews include an outsider, a fresh perspective. A safety consultant, may be the right challenger of all that received wisdom, all that “because we’ve always done it this way.” But a willingness to ask open questions, to explore why you’re doing things this way that can improve any process applied to health and safety.
Often you need extra confidence from professional support, after all we are talking about both legal compliance and the potential to seriously harm people if we get it wrong. But in hard times, health and safety has to show that it too can make a contribution to business survival. And it is very difficult to be a brilliant organisation at managing health and safety but terrible at everything else. It is unlikely that reducing ill health and injuries, the chance of down-time and equipment damage, would not also have a beneficial effect on every other aspect of business activity. Health and safety on a budget isn’t a threat, it’s an opportunity.
ACS Empowerment Solutions Health, Food and Safety consultants can assist your company with creating an affordable budget for OHS by streamlining safety and outsourcing it at less than a quarter of the cost of a full-time internal safety expert.