The HSE has reported on a case this week where an employee sustained injuries after the interlock of machine guard had been tampered with. The system had been overridden meaning the employee was working on a potentially dangerous lathe. This case was discussed on LinkedIn where health and safety professionals gave their view on what went wrong.
For me the answer is simple. It’s a cultural issue. When the workforce start taking short cuts and endangering others it means that the safety message is not getting across. So what can you do about it? Here’s my three simple tips:
Workforce engagement not dictatorship: We hear this all the time but communication really is important and should be at the heart of everything a health and safety professional does. How effectively are you getting your safety messages across? Think about ways to do this by taking time to talk with all levels of management and the workforce. Speak about the business benefits of health and safety in terms of productivity and job satisfaction. Make sure health and safety committee meetings take place on a regular basis and get on board with the union health and safety representatives to get key messages across. There are many ways to successfully engage with the work force. It is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Try and refrain from using terms should as “this is the way they want it done” or “well its the company rules”. Using these terms will only encourage your employees to rebel against the rules.
Training: How is training delivered? Are people just staring at the screen or going through the motions of an on-line learning program. Lets face it-we’ve all been there when someone just reads out each slide word for word. When training on topics such as machine guarding bring some relevant scenarios to the table. Get the employees discussing why taking short cuts may impact on their work colleagues. Explain how it can effect morale due to disciplinary action. Get the message across and understood. Make sure that the students leave understanding their responsibilities.
Effective leadership: Most of us work in a world where the pressure is on to boost productivity and increase profits. It is a key time in the UK economy to grow your business and keep your outgoings as low as possible. Leaders often deliver difficult messages about work processes and change in order that the business stays competative. Your attitudes and beliefs about health and safety influence your behaviour. Remember your behaviour on site sends a powerful message to your workers about how seriously they should take health and safety. Get involved by taking part in workplace inspections and meetings. This way you are demonstrating health and safety is important to you.
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