Managers and Health and Safety
Being a manager of an organisation is a tough job. Not only do you have to think about actually running the business and steering it through difficult conditions like economic recessions, increased competition and the like, but as a manager you also have a duty of care towards your employees, and are legally required through legislation such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). This means that your business needs to comply with relevant health and safety legislation to ensure that you provide a safe place of work as far as is reasonably practical. No workplaces are totally without risk, but it is up to you as a manager to ensure that through a combination of risk assessments, effective control measures such as a permit to work procedure (for information about our permit to work training click here), provision of suitable protective equipment, employees who are well-trained with regards to health and safety, a positive safety culture where employees are encouraged not to take undue risks (e.g. if a job can't be done safely then it shouldn't be done, no matter what the time constraints) etc.
With regards to health and safety training and courses, for the manager themselves, attending a course such as the IOSH Managing Safely will give them a very good overview of their legal requirements regarding health and safety in their company, along with theory and useful know-how on subjects such as accident investigation and performing risk assessments. For those directors or in a senior executive position, an IOSH Safety for Executives and Directors course may be more suitable.
We also provide bespoke health and safety courses for managers which can incorporate various elements and be tailored to the exact requirements of yourself and other managers within your organisation. For more information on this, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or contact us online by clicking on the "Contact" tab at the top of the page.
Also:- If you are a manager on a construction site, the CITB 5-day SMSTS course is a qualification aimed at giving site managers information required to ensure the operation of a safe construction site.
Health and Safety for Managers - What you Need to Know
Why do managers need a thorough understanding of workplace health and safety?
Health and safety can seem like a bit of a nightmare at times but it is something that every manager needs a thorough grasp of. Ok, some of it can seem boring and it might appear to be a lot of red tape and hoops to jump through, but it is an important part of the law and a necessary element for keeping a business functioning effectively.
There is a lot of information surrounding health and safety at work that you will need to digest at some point; the best place for that is the government's own website www.hse.gov.uk. This is kept up to date with the latest legal changes and how it applies to your business.
This article is going to cover the basics of why you should be taking the time to understand health and safety law, and how it will help you avoid any potential compensation claims in the future.
As a manager, what do I need to know about health and safety in the workplace?
British health and safety law is based around the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Act states the general duties and responsibilities of employers to their employees and the general public, and of employees to their colleagues. These are all based around the principle of 'so far as reasonably practicable' - if it's impossible to completely reduce the risk, or the cost is disproportionate to the risk, then full measures don't have to be taken, so long as you make an effort to reduce the risk as far as possible.
Essentially, it's about common sense. Identify the risks in your workplace and take steps to reduce them.
There was further legislation with The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations), which is much more detailed regarding the duties of the employer. The main responsibility being to carry out a risk assessment and implement actions to reduce the risks identified. Where there are more than 5 employees, this risk assessment has to be documented with the significant findings and actions disclosed.
5 key requirements that every manager is responsible for:
- 1. Making arrangements for the implementation of the health and safety measures identified by the risk assessment
- 2. Appoint competent employees to help you implement the arrangements
- 3. Set up emergency procedures
- 4. Provide clear information and training to employees (including having the Health and Safety at Work poster displayed in the workplace)
- 5. Work together with other employers if you share your workplace
So what could happen if I didn't meet my responsibilities?
Ultimately, failing to comply with health and safety law could lead to criminal prosecution in the Crown Court or Magistrates Court. It is possible to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter if the death of an employee, or member of the public, was believed to be a result of you failing to put sufficient measures in place to protect them.
It is also possible to be fined for not having controls and measures in place after a health and safety inspection or investigation. This can include not having a written risk assessment and/or policy in place.
How are health and safety rules enforced?
It is the job of the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that the law is being followed by workplaces around the country. They will inspect premises; investigate incidents; investigate complaints made by employees, or the public; serve notices of action that needs to be taken, and can decide to prosecute if they deem a case severe enough.
Sounds scary, doesn't it? In reality though, all that is required is to learn about applicable legislation and best practices, implement them as far as is reasonably practical, and keep up to date with any changes. As long as you do that and encourage your employees to the do the same, you will be abiding by the law and serving to create a safe place of work for everyone in or near the premises.
The best way to make absolutely sure that you are not missing anything is by completing accredited training. Here at the BCF Group, we offer a wide range of courses on every aspect of health and safety. Delivered by our team of professionals who have been working in the field for many years, at some of Europe's largest companies and organisations, we make sure that the training we deliver is applicable to you and your workplace; not just the bare facts and general theory.
For more information on how our team can help you and your business, give us a call on 0844 800 3295 where one of our health and safety consultants will be happy to help and advise, or click on the "Contact" tab at the top of the page to contact us online.
Why a Manager Needs to Organise Health and Safety
The health and safety culture in an organisation is dependent on senior management buying in to the process and implementing this way of thinking and working by effectively communicating it to employees. If managers do not take health and safety seriously, either by blatantly flouting regulations or through turning a blind eye to contraventions, then workers will also end up engaging in dangerous practices which could result in themselves or others suffering an accident or illness in the workplace. Workers will either copy what management do or follow the directions that are given to them.
Even in a company where managers do actively encourage and promote a health and safety culture they will still need to monitor what is happening to make sure that policies and rules are being followed. They may also need to step in and perform a mediation role between different departments if they are having a disagreement which has a subsequent impact of creating a hazard to health and safety. For example, the quality control department refuse to clear a batch of goods for shipment until more tests are completed, but the manufacturing department will not stop production because they have been given output targets to hit. As a result, goods begin to pile up once the designated storage area gets full, with the result being that these products block emergency exits, are a trip hazard and create a fire risk as the flammable material provides more fuel for a fire to burn.
Managers will also need to organise other health and safety considerations such as regular performance of risk assessments and keeping up to date with changes in applicable health and safety legislation. Courses such as the NEBOSH General Certificate and IOSH Managing Safely will provide managers will a detailed knowledge of their requirements with regard to issues such as implementing applicable laws and performing risk assessments.
Adhering to Health and Safety Legislation
Ensuring that a business can stay safe and manage its premises properly is going to come from the decisions made by the management. This all stems from putting together the right kind of plan and system along the way in terms of best practice and logic.
However, it also means that you need to fit in with all occupational health and safety specifications and standards for the industry that you are in. Running a substandard and unsafe business is no longer an option today; you need to be able to use the solutions around you to create a positive influence.
Adhering to health and safety legislation means that you have to:
- Stay up to date with changes and amendments to health and safety legislation such as the CDM update 2015
- Work with employees at all times to improve their passion, knowledge and commitment to long-term health and safety
- Ensure that development and growth amongst your staff is managed effectively and that you protect the interests of the business in doing so
- Performing regular appraisals and assessments of the premises to discover any new hazards which may have been unwittingly introduced
Identifying potential hazards and looking into the inner workings of your workplace will pay massive dividends in the future when you need to make sure that you are adhering to all legislation. The best way to start preparing for this is to:
- Have all staff take mandatory health and safety training and refresher courses
- Bring in professional consultants who can advise you on the best practice for your company
- Employ researchers to find out the most common problems with businesses that are in your niche so you can avoid these pitfalls
All of this falls under a more general layout, but each industry tends to have standards it must meet depending on the function of the property. To get to this stage, you need to take the time needed to get to this point in as little time as possible in order to get everyone up to speed on what is expected of them as soon as you are possibly able to.
Detailing risk management into your overall development and growth as a company is vital, too. It's all about being able to offer a solution that takes away the chances of people being injured in the workplace, and also will help you understand the specific responsibilities that come with the industry you are involved in.
New Managers Should Not Assume Health and Safety Supervisors are Competent
When a new manager starts with the company, or a person has been promoted internally up to a managerial position, there will inevitably be a lot of new information to have to get their head around, particularly if this is their first line management position. They will need to quickly get up to speed with what their new responsibilities are, which people under their authority do which particular tasks, the expectations which senior managers and directors have of the person now that they are a manager, plus about a hundred and one other things to think about. But one issue which should be high up on the list of priorities is establishing who is responsible for what with regards to health and safety, and in particular that they are competent in the role.
One of the major causes of accidents in the workplace is assumption, insofar as a person assumes that someone else has or has not done something, when in fact the opposite is true. Injuries can be extremely severe and possibly fatal, with example situations including:
- A person assumes another worker has switched off the electricity before working with live wires, when in fact they have not.
- A worker assumes that all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in good working order and just puts it on without checking it thoroughly first.
- Assuming that a substance in a container is actually what the label says it is. Precautions need to be taken as the labelling could be incorrect and the substance is actually extremely harmful to health rather than the expected safe one.
Similarly, new managers should not assume that when they take over responsibility for overseeing the health and safety of either the entire company or a particular department/group of people, that the supervisors that are currently employed in the role are fully competent. Just because they are currently in the role by no means guarantees that they have sufficient levels of knowledge to be able to competently carry out the position.
The new manager needs to quickly investigate and evaluate how much knowledge and experience their health and safety supervisors have. It may be the case that there is a need for more health and safety training and qualifications in order to provide them with an appropriate level of knowledge necessary to carry out their job role.
It may also come to pass that those in a supervisory or managerial position responsible for ensuring and promoting health and safety in the workplace do not possess the necessary attributes and personal characteristics required to carry out this function to a high level. For instance they may be suitably trained in health and safety matters, hold well-regarded qualifications like the NEBOSH General Certificate or even the NEBOSH Diploma, but if they are the type of person who does not enforce the rules or is viewed by colleagues as a bit of a risk taker then they will not make a very good health and safety manager. This is because workers will take their lead from this safety manager and will often view health and safety in the same way as their manager does.
The new manager needs to actively take the time to find out how competent their health and safety supervisors are almost as soon as they start their new role, as every minute that elapses with unsuitable people in the position has the potential for an accident or incident to take place.
How Can Managers Promote a Health and Safety Culture?
The first step required before managers can promote a health and safety culture within their organisation is to create a comprehensive policy and undertake tasks such as the performance of suitable risk assessments and identifying the standards required by everyone working in the company. Once this has been established, managers can then go about the task of promoting these values and health and safety expectations.
The promotion of a health and safety culture can be done in a number of ways. The best type of promotion comes from the managers themselves being seen to actively participate in the implementation and compliance with procedures such as wearing protective equipment when walking in a zone where this is required. Workers look to managers to provide instructions and an example for them, and are likely to follow their actions as they believe that what managers are doing is the acceptable way of behaving within the organisation.
A health and safety culture can also be promoted through training, particularly bespoke in-house health and safety training courses, as these can teach employees not only about the risks that they face in the particular workplace, but will also inform them about the company's specific policies and unique procedures such as where to assemble in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Managers also need to monitor how their instructions are not only interpreted but also how much of a demand they place upon employees. For example if management demands certain output targets to be met, workers may feel that the only way they can achieve them is to ignore certain safety rules and regulations. It is therefore up to management to ensure that workers are not putting themselves or others in danger by trying to fulfil these targets, and it may be the case that extra resources will need to be allocated by management.
Management and Supervisors Health and Safety Training
There can be a misconception amongst some managers and supervisors within an organisation that because they are not on the 'front line' so to speak in terms of being down on the shop floor and facing dangers from hazards such as coshh substances or large machinery, that they do not need to be trained. In actual reality it is just as necessary for them to receive health and safety training and be aware of their responsibilities as it is for workers.
Managers and supervisors are the ones who establish the procedures and way of working within their company. Employees will often follow their example when it comes to how seriously they take health and safety in the workplace. If managers are not concerned with complying either with legislation or their own rules then the workforce is unlikely to either. Sometimes it can be even worse than this simple disregard for compliance; managers can actively encourage the circumvention of health and safety regulations in order to save time or increase profit margins.
For managers and supervisors who are serious about complying with regulations and creating a positive health and safety culture within their organisations, they will require the training to keep up to date with the latest legislation, as well as being taught how to recognise potential hazards and perform certain tasks such as risk assessments and produce emergency evacuation plans. They will also need to know how to effectively communicate health and safety information to staff.
Different Types of Health and Safety Training for Managers and Supervisors
There are numerous health and safety courses and qualifications available to managers and supervisors. For those who require a general overview then IOSH Managing Safely courses or the NEBOSH General Certificate will be an excellent option to consider.
There are also courses available that are intended for managers and supervisors which concentrate on a specific topic or industry. For example, there are CITB-accredited courses for those in the construction industry with a separate course aimed specifically at a site manager and for a site supervisor. The Site Management Safety Training Scheme or SMSTS for short is a 5-day course intended for site managers, whilst the Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme or SSSTS for short is a 2-day course aimed, as the name suggests, at construction site supervisors.
Along with all of the above accredited qualifications we also offer bespoke health and safety training courses for managers and supervisors. These can cover a variety of specialist topics to provide managers with the knowledge to implement safety procedures and monitoring to cover this particular issue, with our most popular being our COSHH for Managers and Supervisors course which helps to inform managers and supervisors of their responsibilities when it comes to hazardous substances within the place of work.
Prosecution Increases the Need for Health and Safety Training for Managers
Accidents Pose a Threat at All Times
Unfortunately despite all of the procedures, safeguards, policies, care and attention that is afforded and put in place, mistakes and accidents in a place of work still happen. These factors, combined with health and safety training, can only reduce the potential for accidents; it can never completely eliminates the possibility entirely.
Health and Safety Legislation is in Place to Protect People and the Environment
As developed nations have continued to introduce legislation which serves to protect workers, so too have the consequences become more severe for managers who fail in their responsibilities for complying with this legislation and regulations, and fulfilling their duty of care towards employees, members of the public and the environment.
For those managers and directors who are negligent or deliberately flout legislation and regulations, rather than just facing warnings and fines, there is a very real risk of criminal proceedings and prison sentences for serious health and safety breaches.
Managers Need to Understand Health and Safety Requirements
It is essential then that not only do managers need to ensure adherence and compliance with legislation at all times, but they also need to be sure that they have a thorough and correct understanding of exactly what these legislative requirements are and what is demanded of them with regards to keeping people and the environment safe from harm as far as is reasonably practical. The threat of prosecution therefore increases the need for health and safety training for managers, as without being taught about the legislation they will not be fully aware of everything it contains and consequently what is expected of them. A lack of knowledge has been the cause of many accidents, and the same is true when it comes to managers not understanding what is required from them and subsequently not implementing it in the workplace.
The Need for Proactive Research and Health and Safety Training
The ever-present threat of prosecution means that managers and directors should not simply wait to hear about entirely new legislation or amendments to existing regulations, but instead need to actively learn the information and ensure that they keep up-to-date with changes which will impact the industry in which they operate. Whilst some requirements may apply to all workers regardless of industry or job title, and so find their way into the media, there may be changes which are industry-specific and may require a little proactiveness to find.
Not only do managers have a responsibility for improving the fortunes of the company from a financial perspective (assuming that the business is a commercial, for-profit organisation of course) and putting in the associated time and research that this entails, but they also have a duty to also carry this out with regards to health and safety. Whilst this may not be time spent which provides any financial benefits for the company (although it can be argued that it does long-term), it is still necessary to fulfil all legal requirements and minimise the potential for prosecution. Attending comprehensive health and safety training courses will fulfil a large part of this objective, as will engaging the services of an external health and safety consultancy company who can advise on the responsibilities of management.