Why Health and Safety Aims Need to be Stated
Ask anybody what they expect when they hear that a business will be focusing on improving health and safety in the workplace, and their initial thought is likely to be that the company is aiming to reduce the chances of accidents occurring. By doing so, the number of people adversely affected by such incidents, and the severity to which they are impacted, will be minimised.
However just making the declaration of "improving health and safety" will be too general a statement and lack the specific details that will be necessary in order to facilitate its achievement. In order to create a safe workplace where the likelihood of an employee, visitor, nearby member of the public or the environment is harmed in some way, exact and detailed plans and actions will need to be undertaken.
Approaching health and safety with a nondescript plan of action will often result in little to nothing actually being done. In this case, the same dangers to health which existed before will continue to be present, with the potential to cause harm at any moment. To improve the levels of health and safety in a place of work, the following factors need detailed consideration:
Specific objectives need to be defined in order to increase the chances of them being achieved. Having a clear focus will be far easier to work towards than a generalised desire which has no measurable targets. For example, an objective of "Reducing the number of accidents in the workplace by 10% within three months" will be a far better objective than simply saying "to have fewer accidents in the workplace".
Plans are only effective if people work towards them. No matter how clear the objective, if nobody is actively working to achieve it then it is highly unlikely to be accomplished. As part of the plan, tasks and responsibilities should be assigned to individuals so that they and others know who is doing what.
The best plans in the world will fail to get off the ground if they are not properly communicated and nobody knows about them. Effective communication is vital for getting people to understand what it is they need to do, and why they need to be doing it (see Why section below).
Getting employees on board beforehand, rather than simply issuing orders to them without warning, will result in greater motivation from them to work towards the objectives, and ultimately significantly increasing the chances of the stated objectives becoming a reality. Often this is done through such methods as health and safety training courses which teach employees of the dangers and serious consequences that can occur as a result of an incident in the workplace. By explaining the risks, and the urgent need to tackle the issues, workers are more likely to buy-in to what management are trying to achieve in terms of improving health and safety within the company.
As mentioned under the 'Objectives' heading above, defining clear timescales makes accomplishment much more likely as it puts a definitive deadline on what needs to be achieved. Without this, tasks and changes will often get left for another day, which ultimately becomes months, years or possibly even never.