Using an Accident Book to Improve Workplace Health and Safety
When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, and indeed any location, prevention is far more preferable than dealing with the aftermath and consequences. For other issues it is likely that with a bit of work and effort things can go back to exactly how they were, e.g. profits may have dipped last year but are back to the desired level this year, but for accidents and incidents relating to health and safety, they may change people's lives forever... or end up taking it. These negative impacts can be physical in the form of permanent scarring or loss of limbs, but can also be psychological in the form of trauma experienced through witnessing a horrific accident at work, or indeed suffering one themselves.
The Necessity for Hazard Identification
Being able to identify potential dangers is one of the most important attributes and skills of a health and safety manager, as their ability to spot a hazard before it causes harm allows the danger to be nullified or at the very least minimised as far as is reasonably practical before it causes injury, illness or death to a worker or member of the public.
Learning from Accidents and Near Misses
Whilst the main objective is to prevent accidents, the unfortunate truth is that they will inevitably happen even with the most stringent and comprehensive health and safety procedures and safeguards in place. Health and safety training and precautions can only minimise the potential for accidents; it can never eliminate them entirely within a workplace. Individual hazards may be eliminated by removing certain elements, but the only way to remove every single risk would be to close down, which is obviously not a viable option.
Therefore accidents and near misses will occur. Whilst it can be tempting to try and forget about them as they can be viewed as a failure on the part of accident prevention, it is vital that they are fully investigated and lessons are learned which can stop it from happening again. If the incident is relatively minor, the knowledge acquired could prevent a similar occurrence in the future but on a much larger scale which would otherwise have killed or injured many people.
Making Use of the Accident Book
One place where information can be gleaned from is the company's accident book. All accidents, even minor ones, should be logged in here to provide a written record of pertinent information such as what happened, to whom and when. Most of the accidents will be relatively minor, but even so they can provide a valuable insight into the dangers of the workplace. Patterns may emerge from looking through the book, which may highlight that accidents occur more frequently on a certain piece of equipment, at certain times of the day, to certain groups of people (e.g. young workers), or maybe even to a specific individual! Not only can this emphasise which areas to focus the introduction and improvement of safety features and systems, but may also bring to light the requirement for additional or more detailed health and safety training for one or more staff members to prevent them suffering a more serious accident in the future.
Rather than just relying upon what they can see by conducting workplace inspections, managers responsible for health and safety need to make use of all the resources and information available to them. This includes information contained in the accident book as well as interviews and meetings with employees who can provide valuable insights into the dangers present in the workplace down on the shop floor. The more facts and information the health and safety manager has, the more comprehensive and effective their health and safety implementations are likely to be, which ultimately results in a safer place of work for all.