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.