Is a Health and Safety Action a Rule Violation or Down to a Lack of Knowledge?
A lot of accidents affecting the health and safety of workers are caused either by a deliberate by-passing of rules or through a lack of knowledge regarding the risks and dangers to health that may be present in their line of work.
Where lack of knowledge is to blame, this can be remedied through health and safety training which provides workers with the information they are lacking regarding potential risks and the consequences of their actions or inactions. This training can either be dedicated to a defined topic such as manual handling training, sharps training or COSHH hazardous substance training, or it can be a health and safety course which covers a wide variety of issues and the most common examples of dangers in a typical place of work like the NEBOSH General Certificate or the IOSH Managing Safely course. There are also those which focus on specific industries such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate, SMSTS and SSSTS certificates which are dedicated to construction site safety.
If a health and safety violation in rule-based, this can often be much more difficult to correct. There may be a culture within the company of not complying either in whole or in part with applicable health and safety legislation, in which case it is the responsibility of management to correct this. If these instructions actually come from managers, for example to try and reduce costs by not providing the necessary protective equipment, then workers can report them to the relevant authorities. After all, it is them risking their health and their safety by doing the work, not the managers.
Changing Health and Safety Attitudes
As much as training workers how to do things safely is important, a similarly vital part of the education process is explaining to people - both workers and managers- as to why health and safety is so important and why it is imperative that things are done in a certain way and control measures are put into place and enforced in order to prevent accidents and incidents from occurring.
Changing attitudes can be a large part of the battle with regards to the creation of a positive health and safety culture within the organisation. When the problems come from management in terms of encouraging the foregoing of rules and regulations and circumventing any safety protocols that are in place, either an accident, near-miss or, most preferably, an inspection, may be able to convince them to amend this policy.