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  7. Short-Term Seasonal Demand Spikes Can Increase Risk to Safety

Short-Term Seasonal Demand Spikes Can Increase Risk to Safety


A busy high street filled with Christmas shoppers

There are very few commercial businesses in the world which do not experience fluctuations in the demand for their products or services at different times of the year. Energy companies enjoy increased demand during the cold and dark winter months when more heaters and lights are used, retailers experience a surge in sales in the run up to Christmas, attractions get more visitors during the school holidays etc. Companies need to plan and prepare for these fluctuations in order to take advantage of the increases, and avoid significant financial losses during the times when demand is lower.

Not only do plans need to be created and preparations undertaken to deal with the strains of increased demand, but dealing with the increased demand also has a bearing upon health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in and associated with the company.

The Danger Posed by Greater Numbers of People on the Site

Organisations will typically have staffing levels which can deal with "normal" levels of demand. When demand increases and more needs to be produced (if a manufacturing company) or customer numbers increase (if a retailer or service provider), then existing staff are likely to be unable to cope and will require additional assistance.

This will come from the hiring of additional staff members on a temporary contract basis, which will unfortunately nearly always increase the potential for accidents. For starters, an increased number of people operating in a workplace which is likely to be of a size to accommodate the "normal" staffing level may become crowded. When combined with more stock, more customers, and more movement of machinery (e.g. equipment for moving stock about), there is a greater potential for an accident to occur.

There will also be more people to evacuate in the event of an emergency, which means that factors such as the availability of emergency exits, or, more pertinently, the ability of the larger body of people to quickly get out of the building, needs to be considered and amendments to the workplace made if necessary. Managers also need to ensure that emergency assembly areas are large enough to accommodate these greater numbers, as if they are not, a large gathering could end up with people being too close to an affected building or being in the path of oncoming moving vehicles.

Lack of Health and Safety Training or Experience

It also needs to be remembered that those coming into the workplace may never have worked in this industry before, or even worked anywhere for that matter, and so have had little or no health and safety training that is relevant to the job they will be doing, and the risks that they may encounter whilst doing it or moving around the site. This can particularly be the case for retailers who employ young people at Christmas or during big sales events, whom for many this may be their first job. They will need to be taught about the potential dangers and hazards which exist, and whilst they won't need as much detail as a NEBOSH General Certificate provides for instance, they will still need a health and safety course which covers a wide range of different topics related to safety such as fire, hazardous substances, manual handling etc.

Increased Stock and Materials

Whether the company is a retailer or a manufacturing business, increased trade will necessitate an increase in raw materials or stock levels to avoid interruptions in trade. All of this will need to be stored somewhere on site so that it can be accessed easily when required. It does however mean that this extra stock poses a fire hazard as there is more material to burn, as well as being a danger if it is piled up high and can fall on top of someone.

It may be the case that certain items and substances are hazardous to health in their own right, rather than requiring a fire or a fall to become dangerous. These substances will be more prevalent in manufacturing and industrial industries, and include items such as paints, oils, chemicals, free flowing solids and substances which can affect the lungs if the vapours or dusts are inhaled, to name but a few.

A Rush to Fill Orders

Increased demand ramps up the pressure to produce items as quickly as possible in order to satisfy all of the orders that have been placed. As everybody knows, rushing tasks causes mistakes to be made, and workplace activities are no exception. Aside from causing delays and costing money in wasted materials, rushing and making mistakes also significantly raises the likelihood of a person causing injury either to themselves or others around them.

It is vitally important that managers do not abandon health and safety requirements, and continue to enforce and communicate the importance of the health and safety policy to all employees. Whilst it may be tempting to circumvent certain safeguards in order to make things happen more quickly, doing so drastically increases the potential for an accident, not to mention likely being illegal in most countries where health and safety legislation exists to protect workers.

Welfare Issues

Welfare provisions often fall under the remit of health and safety managers these days, who have to ensure that suitable facilities and amenities are readily available to all employees such as toilets, hand-washing facilities and clean drinking water. A major increase in the number of workers on the premises may mean that current facilities are insufficient to handle such numbers of users, and additional units may need to be built.

Environmental Damage from Increased Production

Increased demand and production can also cause harm to the environment. Under normal operating levels, a company may release concentrations of pollution into the air or water which are so low that they do not pose a threat to life (of both creatures and humans). However if output is scaled up, these concentrations could rise to such levels where they do become damaging to living organisms. Careful monitoring needs to be performed by the company at all times, along with possible amendments to current working practices and procedures to ensure that this environmental damage, and the subsequent risk to life, does not take place.

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