Reporting From the Health & Safety Event : making the paper work really work

As well as exhibiting at the recent Health and Safety Event at the NEC, SG World took the opportunity to attend the supporting seminar programme. The role of ‘paperwork’ in effective H&S management was a recurring theme across a number of sessions.

The opening keynote presentation was an address from Mr Kevin Myers, HSE Director General, covering the six pillars of the new HSE strategy:

* Acting together

* Tackling ill health

* Managing risk well

* Supporting small employers

* Keeping pace with change

* Sharing our success

Mr Myers covered all six subjects but used  “Managing Risk Well”  to raise the subject of excessive paperwork and emphasize the need to change the focus as “no-one’s ever been protected by a piece of paper”. This prompted a question from the floor, asking whether this approach had been communicated out to the field as in their experience, HSE inspectors always wanted to see the paper trail. Mr Myers countered that although relevant, paperwork shouldn’t be the “start of the conversation”, if it was, “something was going wrong”.

The paperwork debate was also picked up during a session on the new H&S Sentencing Guidelines presented by Mr Chris Green, a legal partner specialising in Health and Safety case law. These guidelines are viewed as a game changer by the industry, the new fine structure, based on business turnover, means the cost of getting workplace H&S wrong has skyrocketed. He had also listened to the HSE address earlier that morning but stressed the continued importance of documented, auditable processes in defending a H&S breach.

The final session of the day was on Behavioural Safety and Culture. The audience were invited to think about what this actually meant and a useful way of looking at it is “how things are done around here and how I feel about it”. The presenter cited a case where a man “helping out” in the warehouse one day was fatally injured. Although the firm had a documented manual handling safety programme and restricted access to the warehouse, upon further investigation it became clear that this wasn’t a tragic, isolated event – the victim regularly helped out in the warehouse. The paperwork was in place but the company did nothing to stop this unsafe working behaviour.

Ultimately the right documentation is not a “shield” if it gathers dust in a desk or languishes on a notice board without forming part of a pro-active safety culture. “This is a positive message for SG World and our product range,” said Lisa Robinson, SG World Communications Manager. “Our simple inspection documentation is designed to actually integrate into daily routines and be highly visible across the company. The recently launched BSafe range is another tool for businesses looking to pro-actively drive behavioural safety in the workplace. Paperwork continues to play a key role in health and safety management but it needs to be simple, engaging and effective.”

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