We’ve moved

April 28, 2009

We’ve now got our very own blogsite!  Join us at http://www.riskandsafetyplus.co.uk – and you can sign up to the free data service there that will deliver hints, tips, recommendations and useful reports right to your inbox in bite-sized chunks!


The authorities strike again!

December 6, 2008

I saw an item on the news the other day and could not believe what I was hearing.  The Norwich Borough Council have told hairdressers that they need a licence to serve beverages in their salons.

This means that they can’t serve tea and coffee to their clients – and certainly won’t be able to celebrate the festive season with a glass of wine and a mince pie.

What brought this on?  A local publican complained that they were taking his trade away and, instead of the Council telling him to get a life, they simply complied and issued this requirement.

It’s going to cost the salon owners dearly to be able to deliver the kind of customer service that they want to.  They will need to jump through all the hygiene hoops that commercial establishments serving food and drink have to – just to give a client a nice cuppa.

This is health and safety gone crazy again!  I wonder what the risk assessment revealed – how many cases of funny tummy have been acquired from a cup of tea at the hairdressers?  How high risk is this really?

Getting the balance right

November 29, 2008

Visiting a wide range of businesses I see all sorts of approaches to the whole issue of health and safety.  Most businesses see it as bureaucratic and feel that it’s inflicted on them for the benefit of the government rather than for the benefit of the business.  However, I think it’s about payback and making the health and safety activities profitable.

It doesn’t matter what stage the company is at, any entrepreneurial activity is about risk – the problem is that nobody sees it as a risk management exercise.  Many organisations do the bare minimum – or less – until they get caught out, when their response is to panic and often don’t think about the actions they take.

Other companies view the whole issue of health and safety a bit like a big bad wolf – they need to protect themselves against the authorities (the wolf) and use belt, braces and string to ensure every possible avenue is covered.  What they do, effectively, is tie themselves up in the red tape!

A balanced view would allow people to view health and safety with their business head on.  To take actions that will actively contribute to the business effectiveness, at the same time as meeting the legislative requirements – and also deliver good practice as far as corporate social responsibility is concerned.  If they get it right, it would even produce a nice positive result in the bottom line!

Taking a balanced view and embracing health and safety issues doesn’t have to be a painful experience – with the right approach it could even be a profitable one.

If you’d like more information about this take a look at http://www.irm-safety.co.uk/PROPA or give us a call on 0845 430 9461.

Transparent teams work

October 7, 2008

At IRM Safety we’ve already had a prime example of how traditional command and control fails to work, with one of our clients. A large organisation with several locations and a silo mentality. Each department on each location ‘does their own thing’, so there are virtually no connections between them. Lack of shared knowledge had resulted in problems not being identified and, therefore, not able to be resolved. The cost has been an audit that should not have been necessary and processes that now have to be ‘reinvented’ in each location to not only meet the internal and external compliances, but to address the issues that are only just being discovered after years of ineffective operation.

A book published recently (The Secrets of CEOs by Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave) says that the way forward is to take a close look at how the internal teams in your organisation operate. They advise ditching command and control and embracing total transparency. In fact, the recommendation is to develop fellowship within the organisation – something that Molly Harvey (www.thesoulwoman.com) has been promoting very successfully for some years now.

Teams hold the key to a leader’s success

For more about risk, occupational safety and health, eco-management and profitable operations visit our website at http://www.irm-safety.co.uk.

Still conkers bonkers!

October 2, 2008

Most people remember the headmaster who banned the children at his school from playing conkers without goggles and gloves as a safety precaution.  As a health and safety practitioner I found this completely ridiculous as, if he had done a risk assessment, I would be astonished if he had been able to cite even a trivial risk.

However, I was stunned when my 6 year old came home from school the other day and announced that he was not allowed to play conkers at school – because it was dangerous!  Dangerous as in he might graze a knuckle or suffer from damage to his pride if he loses as opposed to learning nothing about how to deal with risk in the real world – a much more potentially dangerous omission.

Risk = opportunity

September 5, 2008

In all teachings about health and safety they reckon there are three requirements – moral, legal and financial.

Moral and legal are self explanatory, but everyone gets excited about finance.  Most companies are drawn by profit and see health and safety as a cost with no payback.

If your company could achieve the moral and legal requirements AND make a profit, wouldn’t that make a difference to management’s perception of health and safety as a necessary evil?

Businesses are about risk – you can’t run a business without taking risks, or it would never get started and certainly wouldn’t expand.  Businesses take financial risks, but shy away from health and safety and the risks involved in that.  In finance terms management often look at saving the costs of accidents.  You can’t work out how much accidents will cost before they happen.

However, risk is an opportunity and management should be looking at taking positive action and getting staff on board in exploring the opportunities that are associated with risk.

In fact – in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, risks should be firmly in the opportunities quadrant.  For each risk that is identified as relevant to the company, it can be taken and turned into an opportunity, for instance streamlining processes, using existing skills to generate more profit

For example if working at height is a risk as a window cleaner, the opportunity that arises is to improve your services by cleaning windows from a cherry picker faster, safer and increasing your income by doing more in less time.

Take a look at the risks in your business – where are those opportunities?

Are H&S regulations strangling you?

August 25, 2008

The government is being driven by the unions – who want more regulations and heavier enforcement. This means that company directors are getting more specific and actual duties, instead of implied duties as before. The increase in legislation is tying things down further.

What we should be looking at is having the least number of regulations possible. This is not a dream; if you examine the current mass of regulations you’ll find they are repeated with the same requirements presented in many different forms in relation to different aspects of the running of a safe and healthy business.

Increasing regulations means increasing the means to enforce them – this is a cost to both the government bodies responsible for doing so (indirectly the tax payer) and a cost to the businesses who frantically try to comply with the latest batch of regulations without realising that much of the required compliance is already in place. Many businesses waste a massive amount of time, money and manpower reinventing the wheel.

What the government should be doing instead of issuing yet more regs is to review what is there and reduce the number of regulations, simplify and streamline those in existence to allow businesses to get on with their core business. Health and safety is important, but should be used to drive the profit line, not to bleed it.

Does H&S put a brake on entrepreneurs?

August 23, 2008

Many entrepreneurs think that health and safety is contrary to entrepreneurial ideology and see the need to comply with a mass of legislation is a drag on their ability to run a dynamic business. If you spend your time slavishly following every piece of legislation that comes out, that might be true.

However, the secret is simplicity. All the regulations say the same thing, there’s nothing really new – it’s all about understanding the process that underpins the regulations and you have control!

In fact, used properly health and safety is very entrepreneurial and can make even small organisations profitable. There are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Consult with your staff, get them involved – it gets buy in.
  2. Keep things simple – be practical
  3. Be pragmatic, everything you do should have some sort of payback – a benefit to the business

When you are practical and pragmatic the result will be profit!

Good health and safety is about assessing the risks and ensuring that you keep them to a minimum, something that entrepreneurs do every day.

Is it safe to be pregnant at work?

August 11, 2008

HR people often think that the reason it’s important to notify your employer when you become pregnant is in order to ensure you are eligible for all the maternity rights. However, the picture looks different when you look at it from the health and safety angle.

If you don’t notify your employer that you are pregnant, it makes it impossible to carry out a risk assessment that takes into account your condition. This might include workplace stress, manual handling, appropriate seating and working areas.

Organisations must specify (in the staff handbook or the equivalent) that women who are pregnant need to notify their employer as soon as they are aware of their situation. This enables employers to manage the health and safety of staff who are pregnant. In many countries this is not simply a moral requirement, but a statutory duty for employers.

It’s not to do with an invasion of your privacy, simply about safe working practices for your own health and the safety of your unborn child.

Behavioural safety

July 29, 2008

Everyone talks about ‘behavioural safety’, but what does that really mean?  Most people don’t have a clue!

If you’ve watched a film called ‘What the Bleep’ you’ll have seen footage of that instinct we all have built in to avoid bumping into each other when in crowded areas.  Of course, there’s the odd collision – but usually caused by people who are walking in one direction and looking in another!

We don’t walk down a crowded street thinking ‘oh, another person, I must move slightly to the left to avoid bumping into them; pushchair to the left approaching quickly, mother in a hurry, side-step to protect shins.’  You’d have brain overload – you just use automatic pilot and weave through the crowd safely.

In many organisations complex systems and processes are simply ovewhelming and whilst on one level they are supposed to be protecting people, it’s often simply encouraging them not to think for themselves – and, if they haven’t read (or can’t remember) all the manuals, they won’t apply the processes anyway.

That ability to keep ourselves safe is innate.  In the workplace we don’t need a set of rules to protect us, we just need reminding to use our built in abilities and our common sense!