January 15, 2016

Health and Safety – more than just a tick box exercise

The construction industry has long been recognized as a high risk working environment so, for many in the industry, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Fees for Intervention Scheme has been an unwelcome addition to potential business costs.

The scheme, which was introduced in 2012, has seen the construction industry, in particular, hit hard. Since its launch, almost 17,000 invoices have been issued to this sector alone, resulting in fines totaling more than £7.5 million.

Companies no longer need to be prosecuted to face charges and the costs can be considerable. This charging scheme, coupled with the HSE’s Enforcement Action Plan for Construction means that directors of smaller sites (where statistics have shown 70 per cent of fatalities occur) have needed to rethink how they tackle health and safety at work.

One of the buzzwords in the industry is ‘behavioural’ safety. In essence, this is a top down approach to health and safety. Rather than focusing on why a worker at the ‘sharp end’ acts in an unsafe way, the aim is instead to identify why management behaviour allows such practices to occur in the first place.

Looking at the issue in a positive way, behavioural safety encourages managers and supervisors to instill good health and safety behaviour across the entire workplace to prevent incidents from the past happening again.

To implement this, some have even gone so far as to ‘throw the book’, or rather the tick-sheets out of the window.

Fire Risk Assessor, Frank Johnson, has been leading a ‘No Ticks’ campaign within his industry sector. In a bid to make companies realise that simply filling out a tick list does not necessarily mean that they have thought about and complied with a risk assessment, he has argued that a more detailed approach, which is relevant to the individual business, is what’s needed; citing the fact this is supported in law, as it is a requirement to properly record ‘prescribed information’.

Lara Murray a specialist in health and safety compliance and representation at Palmers, said: “This bespoke, rather than ‘one size fits all’, approach to risk assessments, may also be the way forward for the construction industry. It will enable senior managers to prove, once and for all, that health and safety in the workplace is a holistic concern, which is taken very seriously and is not just a ‘tick box’ exercise. For more information about the services we are able to offer contact us.”