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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.

Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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