James MacPherson, the GGF’s Health, Safety and Environment Manager reflects on the recent fatal accident on construction site and in unrelated incident a glass firm has also been fined after a fatal accident.
It was sad to read recently that Scott Grimes (30) was found in a fatal condition on a building site in Basingstoke and full details are yet to be confirmed. In a separate incident, Pearson’s Glass were fined this week after pleading guilty to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. They were fine £80,000 plus costs after a roofer fell through an asbestos cement sheeted roof, sustaining fatal injuries.
After working in Health and Safety for just short of ten years, it is still sad to read that workers and their families have suffered loss of life at work. In the UK, we still consistently have over a hundred fatal accidents at work every year. A lot of the time, we all operate under the assumption of it won’t happen to us, we have systems in place. Our thoughts at GGF go out to the families grieving from these incidents and we assure them we are working hard to ensure that good health and safety practice is followed on sites and in factories to ensure that there fewer fatalities in workplaces across the UK.
When incidents like this occur, companies often ask health and safety experts, “How do you react to situations like this?” My response is often “It’s what you do that defines you.” This is particularly true when it comes to safety. It’s not just your systems, your policies, your slogans that truly make a healthier and safer workplace. Whilst they all play a part, it is what you DO that defines you and your business when it comes to health and safety.
There are some of the things that I have found in my experience a lot of companies could benefit from doing;
- Focus on what matters – A lot of the time we can fall victim to our accident statistics and likelihood vs severity calculations. These can regularly lead to a disproportionate focus on the small less impactful risks to a business because they are the things that happen more often whilst we don’t have our significant risks managed. I advise that you separate out your fatal and severe risks (FSR) in your business and consistently focus on them and within them (see next point);
- Build capacity to fail safe – When dealing with the FSR ask yourself “when this goes wrong, how bad will it be and am I happy with that?” if the answer is no do something about it. It’s important that where the severity of a risk is high or even fatal we build ourselves and our employees the capacity to fail safely.
- Prioritize employee engagement – Employee engagement is the most powerful tool in affective safety performance, this is where you can find out if there is a conflict to work safe. For example employees don’t have the time to do the task safely, or the guard is broken, or the PPE doesn’t work for this task. Create feedback loops in your business, treat risk assessments as conversational exercises not merely tick boxes, but most importantly, look beyond the accident data and paperwork go out on the shop floor and talk to your employees. Ask them about the work in reality? What makes work hard? What risks need managing? How could we do better?
- Prioritize learning – Probably equally important as employee engagement is to prioritize learning, when investigating accidents for example your aim should be learn as much as possible not to blame human error because if you blame human error then you can never improve. In addition, if you are working from a position of learning to make work better then employees will engage with you more honestly, if they are scared of being blamed its likely you won’t get the full story.
- The GGF is here to help you, if you are concerned about your health and safety at work or you want help to be better, to build capacity, to improve your organizational learning and/or to increase engagement then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.