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Developing a positive safety culture - The Role of Senior Management

The story so far

So far in this series of posts we've covered the definition of a safety culture, the benefits of a positive safety culture and how to avoid a blame culture entirely. In this post, however we're going to review the organisational structure, from the top down looking at the roles and responsibilities each person holds with regards to the organisation's safety culture.

Specifically, we're going to look at the roles of:

  • The Managing Director
  • The Health and Safety Director
  • Safety Manager / Coordinator

In a later post we'll cover:

  • Managers/Heads of Department
  • Mechanical/Engineering Managers
  • Sub-Contractors
  • All employees

A few general points before we get started, though. No matter which management role you may be in from Managing Director and so, creating a positive safety culture requires active leadership, meaning the leadership have a direct effect on how health and safety is perceived within your organisation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) directly recognises the role of management within the health and safety structure of an organisation. Poor health and safety management can have serious financial implications for business, a Survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found health and safety failures cost businesses £19bn p/a.

The role of the Managing Director within the safety culture

The Managing Director can hold such a massive range of responsibilities, from overseeing the operation of the business right down to deciding on which marketing strategy is best. I and many others have found out the hard way that the smaller the business, the more the role of the Managing Director encompasses.  In terms of health and safety, the MD must ensure that the company's business practices are carried out in a way in which ’as far as is reasonably practicable' (we'll go into more detail on what is considered 'reasonably practicable' in a later post) safe for all those involved.

The Internal Structure of Health and Safety
The MD must also ensure there is an effective policy for the health and safety  which protects employees, contractors and the general public, ensuring that everyone is aware of their own responsibility. Following this, the Managing Director must appoint a 'competent person' to oversee health and safety, the size of the company will determine the number of competent persons appointed. The competent person's responsibilities include ensuring that regulations are met under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Surveys have found that 75% of workers waste two hours each working week due to inefficient managers, as such it is important that you select the correct persons for these roles.

The MD must also appoint a Director responsible for safety, however if you're a small company that may well be you. Once you health and safety policy is in place and the competent persons have been appointed, the Managing Director must ensure appropriate funds are in place to meet the government's regulations as well as your own safety policy as well as provide the necessary training.

Finally, this is where the safety culture starts - be it positive or negative the Managing Director sets the example on all health and safety matters, from the way health and safety is perceived right on down to whether or not a blame culture is evident within your organisation.


So, to sum up the Managing Director's role in an organisation's health and safety matters:

 

  • Ensure your organisation's daily practices are as far as reasonable practicable safe for everyone involved.

  • Ensure there is a policy for health and safety in place which at the very least meets government regulations

  • Appoint 'competent persons' to oversee health and safety and ensure that the organisation's regulative responsibilities are met.

  • Appoint a Director to oversee health and safety (If you're the owner of a small company that may be yourself).

  • Ensure appropriate funding is available for health and safety equipment (such as personal protective equipment) and training

  • Set an example for health and safety within the firm as you are where the safety culture begins.

The Safety and Health Director

Now, you've appointed a Director responsible for health and safety, but what does that role actually involve? Well, to start with your director must understand the law - ensuring that all regulations, statutory requirements, HSE guidance notes and codes of practice are brought to the attention of the MD and that obligations are met.


The Safety Director must ensure that the correct communication channels are used between employees and managers, if open communication channels are demonstrated then this will begin to build towards the positive safety culture, allowing for employees to bring forward any issues.  When operating on a 'chain of command' model the Safety Director is the middle man or woman between the company's safety managers/coordinators and the board of directors.

The Director of Health and Safety is to ensure that any new guidance, or new information such as accident prevention techniques are cascaded throughout the organisation in an effective manner. The Safety Director is also to take ownership of health and safety training within the organisation, using the Managing Director's guidance to provide the most effective training for staff.

Finally, the Safety Director must also set an example of how safety is to be perceived within the organisation.

In summary:

 

  • The Safety Director must know the law which pertains to their organisation.

  • Create and ensure streamlined methods of communication between employees and the employer.

  • Act as liaison between safety managers/coordinators and the board of directors.

  • Ensure the company is up to date with the latest accident prevention techniques and that these are cascaded throughout the organisation.

  • Take ownership of health and safety training.

  • Take ownership of the best use of funding provided by the MD.

  • Set an example.

Safety Manager/ Coordinator

I've known is role to be known as the Safety Manager, Safety Coordinator, H&S Supervisor and the Safety and Wellbeing Coordinator - no matter what it's called there are a few things which all of these titles have in common, the essence of the role is to advised Directors and Heads of Department on all health, safety and welfare matters, as well as to ensure the organisation complies with the statutory requirements set out by the government.


For the purposes of this post we'll refer to this role as the Safety Manager - this role includes carrying out all assessments such as Risk Assessments and Display Screen Equipment Assessments and the results of which are recorded and maintained overtime. Recommendations should be made based on these assessments for measures which should be put in place such as PPE and policies.

Also, inspections should be carried out by the Safety Manger and reports of which should be relayed to the Director responsible for health and safety, major issues should be reported to the Director immediately to that they can be addressed as soon as possible. The Safety Manager should then implement the agreed solutions by the agreed date and report back to the Director the results of these solutions.

The Safety Manager must also carry out inspections of all accidents and near misses to get to the root cause of the issue, bearing in mind the just, no blame culture, being careful not to point the finger. For more information on blame culture take a look here. At this point we need to be encouraging a learning culture, showing that the organisation is looking to improve and prevent the same mistakes from happening again. The results of these investigations should be recorded and files maintained. Any of these incidents which are reportable under RIDDOR must be liaised to the Safety Director.

The Safety Manager should also address any competence issues which become evident through investigations or assessments, these can be addressed through additional training, briefings or face to face discussions.

The arrangement of health surveillance as necessary such as period health checks, the organisation of eye tests and blood pressure testing.

And once again, finally, set an example.

So, in summary of the safety manager:

 

  • Carrying assessments such as Risk Assessments and Display Screen Equipment Assessments and the results of which are recorded and maintained overtime.

  • The Safety Manager must also carry out inspections of all accidents and near misses to get to the root cause of the issue, bearing in mind the just, no blame

  • Inspections should be carried out and reports of which should be relayed to the Director responsible for health and safety.

  • Incidents which are reportable under RIDDOR must be liaised to the Safety Director.

  • The arrangement of health surveillance.

  • Address competence issues.

  • Set an example.

To sum up

Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone within the organisation, in this post we've covered the role of the Managing Director:

 

  • Ensure your organisation's daily practices are as far as reasonable practicable safe for everyone involved.

  • Appoint 'competent persons' to oversee health and safety and ensure that the organisation's regulative responsibilities are met.

  • Appoint a Director to oversee health and safety (If you're the owner of a small company that may be yourself).

  • Set an example.

 

The Safety Director:

 

  • The Safety Director must know the law which pertains to their organisation.

  • Create and ensure streamlined methods of communication between employees and the employer.

  • Act as liaison between safety managers/coordinators and the board of directors.

  • Ensure the company is up to date with the latest accident prevention techniques and that these are cascaded throughout the organisation.

  • Take ownership of health and safety training.

  • Take ownership of the best use of funding provided by the MD.

  • Set an example.

 

The Safety Manager:

 

  • Carrying assessments such as Risk Assessments and Display Screen Equipment Assessments and the results of which are recorded and maintained overtime.

  • The Safety Manager must also carry out inspections of all accidents and near misses to get to the root cause of the issue, bearing in mind the just, no blame culture

  • Address competence issues.

  • Set an example.

 

The major task which all three roles have in common is to set an example, if the people in charge of health, safety and welfare do not take it seriously, why should the rest of the workforce? It is also the task of all three roles that when something does go wrong, be it an accident or a near miss the senior management must be careful not to create a just, no blame culture.


If the management can show a positive attitude towards health and safety this will cascade throughout the organisation.


In a future post we're going to cover the roles of:

  • Managers/Heads of Department
  • Mechanical/Engineering Managers
  • Sub-Contractors
  • All employees

 Speak Soon,

Danny

 

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