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Ever changing health and safety

In this article Phil Binks, managing director at Health & Safety Training Ltd explains why he thinks that there’s been a noticeable deterioration in the way people working in many industries, such as construction, warehousing and facilities maintenance, view the ever increasing amount of legislation and guidance, designed to keep them safe

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have been developing health and safety legislation and policy for more than 40 years, and during that time the significant changes they’ve instigated have led to some fairly impressive statistics, showing a great reduction in work related fatalities and injuries.

graphDespite these figures, lots of trainees that come to us for first-time health and safety training, such as risk assessment training or simple manual handling training, already have an ingrained perception that health and safety is an unnecessary complication to their job. We hear phrases like “waste of time”, “tick-boxing” and “rules made by people who have no idea about the job” time and time again.

The danger with this culture of denying the positive effect of health and safety training – as clearly indicated by the fall in injuries and fatalities over the last 40 years – is that some see it as unnecessary intervention by government ‘busy-bodies.’ This can lead to the development of a dangerous culture within the workplace, where workers think it is acceptable to disregard and even ignore essential health and safety rules.

“Part of our job, as trainers, is to instill a more positive opinion of health and safety in those that come to us for training and development.”

Establishing a constructive and well-respected culture of health and safety in the workplace is essential to maintaining the continued success of the HSE’s legislation and to ensure the rates of injuries and fatalities continues to fall.

Nothing is more important to the future of health and safety than the prevalence of accredited instructors and institutions.

One of the most influential factors when considering the usefulness of health and safety training is quality of the training delivered. It’s no surprise that the poorer the quality of the training, the less respect the trainees have for the information being shared with them.

Unaccredited training instructors are unlikely to provide the depth and breadth of learning a trainee requires to do their job effectively and safely. This not only leaves them at risk of injury whilst carrying out their day-to-day role, but also supports the assertion that health and safety training is ‘pointless’.

“There are a large number of people in this industry who offer training and advice without holding the necessary qualifications, and this unfortunately means that the training is essentially worthless, often leaving workers without the required knowledge to do their jobs safely.”

Whether you’re an individual or an employer, it’s important to remember that choosing the right training provider is not only essential for the quality of your learning, but also for your own protection.

Unaccredited training is often not recognised by the HSE. Consequently, employers and individuals are often left with no protection from prosecution should they cause an accident that could have been avoided with the provision of adequate training.

Encouraging trainees to check the qualifications of their chosen training providers and opt for courses accredited by industry-recognised bodies will help to avoid the dangers of sub-standard training.

As trainers working in the industry, we have an insight into the barriers faced by employers in adhering to the right legislation. One of the concerns raised time and time again is the limited, and sometimes complicated, government assistance available in relation to what rules are applicable and which legislation is most important.

As the industry moves forwards, it is essential that the government provides clear guidance and encouragement to employers to assist them with fulfilling their duty in relation to health and safety in the workplace.

We cannot deny that there is more and more legislation, updates, rules and non-binding advice, and distinguishing what is relevant, applicable and correct in each situation can be difficult, especially for those who are inexperienced in health and safety matters.

“There are a lot of grey areas in health and safety legislation that make it difficult for even the most diligent of employers and individuals to know exactly what to do in each situation.”

That said, not all incidents of health and safety failings can be chalked up to inadequate training or a lack of guidance; there will always be those who choose to neglect their legal and moral duty of care.

These people need to know that, if they break the law, regardless of whether it results in any harmful consequences or not, there will be a penalty to pay.

The more severe the offence, and the larger the company, the heavier the penalty will be.

However, this charge will only apply when a fatality occurs. The type of injury, no matter how serious, is still unlikely to be considered when deciding the penalty for a company who breaches their legal duty.

Regardless of the reasons, a clear precedent should be set for those who do not fulfil their duties, either through dangerous or reckless behaviour, willful negligence or disregard for health and safety laws. A strong deterrent will be an effective step forward for the industry, encouraging employers to take their duty seriously.

Another consideration when looking at the future of health and safety, and one that is becoming of increasing importance, is ensuring workers have the required basic skills, such as English and maths, to allow them to not only carry out their jobs effectively, but also understand and be able to apply their training in the right situations.

“This is especially important for the increasing number of migrant workers who may have learned their trade under a different culture of health and safety.”

Ensuring these workers have the basic skills to communicate with colleagues and employers will help them to integrate into their workplace more effectively, which in turn will allow them to develop a better understanding of health and safety regulations.

For more information please see: www.hst.uk.com


About Sarah OBeirne


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