Take time for reflection
New Year's resolutions are often set following a period of self-reflection. It is important to take time to evaluate what your business does well and what could be improved in respect of health and safety.
Learning from the past is important. You should analyse any near misses you may have had and consider any precautions or processes which could be implemented to avoid any future incidents. Looking back at your accident and ill health records can also help you to identify any less obvious hazards in the workplace. Likewise, reviewing any data collected on incidents and near misses can assist you in identifying risk areas.
Establish a culture
Research has shown that people fail to achieve their New Year's resolutions because they focus on what they are changing, rather than why. It is therefore important to consider why health and safety is important in your workplace, to protect the wellbeing of your employees, visitors and customers. When you keep this in mind, what you must do to achieve this follows naturally.
Your employees are often the best people to understand the risks in your workplace. Consulting them in respect of changes or improvements to health and safety will show them that you take their health and safety seriously and will help to ingrain health and safety practices in day to day business, not just in the aftermath of an accident.
Exemplary health and safety practice should start at the top withdirectors and executives setting the standard they expect others to follow by following health and safety procedures themselves. This starts with simple behaviours such as wearing the correct PPE and clearly communicating any changes to policies and procedures with all members of staff.
Be specific and accurately record
Research has shown that the main reason New Year's resolutions fail is because they are too vague, and people do not track them. The same can be said for failures in health and safety policies and procedures.
It is important to be specific when identifying hazards and assessing the risks in your workplace. You should take time to identify what could cause injury or illness in your business and when reviewing existing risk assessments, you should take time to consider if the risk is effectively managed.
The law states that every business must have a policy for managing health and safety. If you have 5 or more employees, this policy must be written down and clearly state who does what, when and how. Further, you should ensure that you are accurately reporting accidents and illnesses and keeping these records up to date.
Accurate records are a fundamental key to successful health and safety practice and allow you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries so you can better assess and manage risk in your workplace.
Ask for help
Drawing on the support of others is important to help you reach your goals. It is important to ensure that you use someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties and that you seek help where needed. When deciding on the appropriate person to use, make sure that you ask for evidence of their relevant training and knowledge and that they are adequately insured.
Everyone that works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risk to their health. You must therefore provide adequate training to achieve this, but you do not have to do it alone. There are numerous training providers that you can engage to deliver the training courses you require. It is important that you assess the needs of your employees, giving particular regard to those who may have additional needs such as new recruits or those changing jobs, and keep accurate records of their training.
The New Year is an ideal time to review these training records and identify any training needs which require attention. Regardless of who requires training, a simple health and safety awareness course can benefit all employees.
Additional considerations for 2020
The UK is gearing up to leave the EU on 31 January 2020. During the period in which the UK begins to disengage with the EU, the government may make changes to some regulations and even remove others. It may be that as the EU no longer sets the standard for the UK to follow, that the HSE may play a larger role in advising the government on health and safety regulation and deregulation.
Whilst there may be change a foot, it is unlikely that we will see a relaxation to health and safety law. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was wholly derived from the UK and is unlikely to be affected by Brexit. Further, the UK's health and safety regime is largely seen as setting a benchmark for others to follow in Europe. In the short term, it is unlikely that we will see any practical effect of Brexit and as for the longer term, uncertainty remains, and it is still a case of 'time will tell.'
For the period from April 2018 to March 2019, there were 147 work related fatalities. No matter how good you think your health and safety practices are, there is always room for improvement.
Improvements to your health and safety practices may come at a cost to your business, but in the long run these costs are often recouped as less employees suffer from work related illnesses and allow you to demonstrate that you have done everything reasonably practicable to protect the health and safety of your employees in the event of an accident.