Health & Safety Essay

Health & Safety Essay

The realm of the working environment is immaterial; health, safety and welfare should be a major aspect of the management of any organisation and, or business. Legislation provides governance, directive and for the policing of these areas within all organisations. This assignment will explore and explain some of the factual and informed actions that now provide for the health and safety of the working environment.

During the Victorian era, bespoke measures were made to ensure safety but, in retrospect, many failures were found in the workers in industrial environments, these included: mining, the cotton mills and the foundries. Working conditions were grim and also profit was placed before risk assessment and safety measures.

a. Explain why management systems during the era of the Industrial Revolution, up to 1960, failed to cope with the prevention of accidents.

b. Explain 12 reasons why a management system may lead to an organisation failing to meet its responsibilities to manage health and safety issues adequately.

c. Explain the main characteristics of a management system that deals satisfactorily with safety and risk management issues.

d. For an organisation of your choice explain the actions that are required to satisfactorily and cost-effectively deal with six of the reasons given for failure in above.

The government of the day had agreed to keep out of the privately owned companies. Business owners could pay whatever wages they decided, and expect workers to work in any conditions that they provided; the worker was completely at the behest of the owner. This included amongst many other factors: the problem of working hours, wages, unemployment, accidents, the conditional employment of women and children, and provision of social housing.

Children and adults were able to operate the huge machines. Workers worked a 12 to 14 hour day, under terrible conditions. It was common for workers to be apprenticed to the factory owners. The high death rate of children and women brought the involvement of social philanthropists, like Charles Booth. Disease was rife in the work place; the most widespread hazards were harmful dusts that led to asbestosis or cancer. Public pressure led to the laws that made good the worst parts of the factory system. Standards of living began to rise in England after 1840. New laws were passed in the ten years after 1840 including a law that kept track of conditions in the mines; this was the first Public Health Act.

Industries inherited poor track records of safety management until the 1960s when the Factories Act, so pioneered and advocated by Trade Unions, became active and enabled changes to be made to the working environment. Since that milestone legislation in the early 1960s we have seen a wealth of legislation and governance being proactively engaging the management of the working environment. Having considered the brief history we now consider 12 potential management failures in the area of responsibility.

Information and Communication: Failure in these two areas is often a key area of responsibility cited when things go wrong in any working environment; when the provision of clear instructions, signage, guidance and strategy for the operational areas of health and safety management are lacking, there is chaos and danger. The communication and sharing of information between employees by management is a vital tool in ensuring the safe management of a given environment. The HSE document, Managing Health and Safety: Five Steps to Success, clearly states that, managers should:

Provide information about hazards, risks and preventive measures to employees and contractors working on your premises. Discuss health and safety regularly. Be ‘visible’ on health and safety. (HSE 2003)

It is also important to ensure a sharing culture of information that encourages all employees to be part of the sharing process. This, as the HSE document cited, states that management should:

Lead by example: demonstrate your commitment and provide clear direction – let everyone know health and safety is important. Identify people responsible for particular health and safety jobs especially where special expertise is called for, eg doing risk assessments, driving forklift trucks. Ensure that managers, supervisors and team leaders understand their responsibilities and have the time and resources to carry them out. Ensure everyone knows what they must do and how they will be held accountable – set objectives. (HSE 2003)

Training and Continuing Professional Development: Poor, inadequate, provision for staff in these areas, has been seen as a prelude to bad practice and are endemic in some industries. This area is key to any provision of good practice across a working environment. Failure areas include poor induction of new employees and no provision for the continuation of the professional development of staff in safety practices. Managers not being trained to manage risk assessment and manual handlers not being trained annually in manual handling techniques are prime examples. The HSE document, Who needs safety training, clearly states:

Whether you are an employer or self-employed, are you sure that you re up to date with how to identify the hazards and control the risks from your work? If you employ managers or supervisors they will certainly need some training. They need to know what you expect from them in terms of health and safety, and how you expect them to deliver. They need to understand your health and safety policy, where they fit in, and how you want health and safety managed. Everyone who works for you, including self-employed people, needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. (HSE 2003b).

What is fairly clear from the literature is that in two specific areas management failure is seen in organisations: that they do not adequately train staff at induction, or provide for the continuation of training in the workforce to ensure continuation of good practice. A good example of this is seen within the poor provision of risk assessment practices, Personal and Protective Equipment (PPE) is a good example.

Protective Clothing, Safe Equipment and Environment: The adequate provision of PPE can be an assessment failure area or indeed a potential failure area in some industries. The workplace must be risk assessed to provide workers with suitable clothing; ensure there is safe, effective equipment to carry out working activities; and make sure that the environment is fit for purpose. The PPE regulations 1992 cite that: Employers have basic duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work (HSE 2005). Therefore, employers must provide adequate clothing and the right safe equipment to carry out working practices.

Reporting and Compliance: The adequate reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (RIDDOR), is also an area of concern. The RIDDOR regulations 1996 are clear in their directives that any matter that invokes any of the provisions under RIDDOR must be reported to the appropriate statutory authorities. The non-completion of an accident report on the workplace premises, and/or the adequate management procedures being in place for the negation of a worker from the workplace during illnesses is a cited problem by HSE.

Risk Assessment and Hazard Management: This is a simple but important oversight in some workplaces; this involves the wrong interpretation of the terms risk and hazard. These simple terms must be crucially understood and ingrained in the world of the manager and the worker to ensure that every aspect of the working environment is potentially, at best, risk free and where possible hazards are managed safely and effectively. The best interpretation of these terms is found in the HSE document Managing Health and Safety: Five Steps to Success:

A hazard is something with potential to cause harm. The harm will vary in severity some hazards may cause death, some serious illness or disability, others only cuts and bruises. Risk is the combination of the severity of harm with the likelihood of it happening. (HSE 2003).

The poor understanding of this important area of safety often leads to poor action plans in workplaces, that provide inadequate action points, to address risks and potential hazards under the specific areas like: RIDDOR, PPE, training, CPD, etc.

Roles and Responsibilities: Role ambiguity and failing to take responsibility for action or inaction are also cited as potential areas that cause concern when dealing with the important areas of health and safety. The failure of a person being appointed as the health and safety officer or, in smaller organisations, a person knowingly having this responsibility across their working role is essential for good management. When this role area is not defined carefully and specifically with some clear management decision-making responsibilities we can find the negation of duties, or failure to take full and informed responsibility for actions, that can be life dependent or indeed threatening. The HSE clearly advises that the owner/director should:

allocated responsibilities for health and safety to specific people – are they clear on what they have to do and they are held accountable.  Consult and involve your staff and their representatives effectively Do your staff have sufficient information about the risks they run and the preventive measures? Do you have the right levels of expertise? Are your people properly trained? Managing Health & Safety (2003).

More importantly in the HSE advisory document Directors responsibilities for health and safety are more stringent in that it clearly outlines roles and responsibilities:

The Chairman and/or Chief Executive have a critical role to play in ensuring risks are properly managed and that the health and safety director has the necessary competence, resources and support of other board members to carry out their functions. (HSE 2002).

Cost and Benefit to the Organisation: The Cost and the Benefits to the Business. These areas are often a potential concern especially for either the small business owner or the profit-conscious board, especially where the benefits to the business are not always seen in the productivity or the output. Sometimes, it has been seen that employers will add training and/or PPE costs to the wage packets. Regulations states that:

An employer cannot ask for money from an employee for PPE, whether it is returnable or not. This includes agency workers if they are legally regarded as your employees. (HSE 2005).

In giving consideration to the fundamental characteristics of good management practices, the HSE clearly denotes five main principles for good practice. These are: policy development; organisation development; planning and implementation (informing auditing and re-planning); measuring performance; and reviewing performance. We shall consider these areas individually.

The clear and essential aspect of any provision of health and safety is a written statement that provides guidance to the workforce and management. From this policy document an operational procedure can be deduced and written, to include a working and evolving action plan that allows all activities to be realistic, achievable and measurable; to ensure that all within the working environment can be clearly briefed and sure of the serious management of safety issues.

The organisation itself must be completely involved in the development, and ongoing direction, of the policy, its procedures and be able to inform the revolving action plan. The HSE cites four main Cs that are required: competence of personnel; control of the responsibilities and accountability; and co-operation between all involved in the life of the organisation at all levels, including external stakeholders such as customers and self-employed workers. Finally, and most importantly, is communication, which must be open, honest and reflective of the practices that inform the ongoing process of health and safety.

Planning the effective strategic and organisational aspects of the health and safety policy and procedures must involve a clear undertaking of risk assessment for areas such as PPE, COSHH, RIDDOR and staff development, etc. Organisations will also have unique areas that are inclusive within the provision of planning. This may also include changing working practices, human resources strategies, environmental consideration and management of waste and emissions. What is important is that this process involves honest appraisal of practices and procedures that are affected by health and safety legislation and, where not, are seen as good practice.

Measuring performance under the written policy, procedure and action plan is essential as this will allow and organisation to decide forward action. But, essentially the organisation can be prepared to be active in monitoring actions and where things go wrong, be proactive in being reactive in a positive manner to ensure that the situation is not repeated or is better managed. The measurements can be used as targets for further planning; a good example could be the reduction in staff sick leave, or minor accidents.

Reviewing performance: is crucial for auditing and will inform any new or revolving action plan and policy and procedural review. This can again be done with the involvement of the workforce, customers and/or interested parties. Many statutory inspectors do provide action plans in most settings for remedial or compliant action. An example in the care industry being the Social Care Inspectorate, and in education settings OFSTED, Adult Learning Inspectorate in England or an awarding body’s External Verifier/Moderator.

Whatever the size or industry it is essential that good management of health and safety is seen and believable as a clear aspect of its environment. The DASH Report, a response by ROSPA, following the Government incentive: the Health and Safety Commission’s (HSC) plans for Revitalizing Health and Safety at Work (HSC/DETR 2000) as well as the recommendations of the Turnbull Report (ICAEW 1999) concerning holistic business risk management, states that:

One of the strengths of the UK approach to OS&H; is the understanding that regulators and duty holders should not simply focus on control of specific hazards but should address the capability of organisations to tackle work-related risks proactively and systematically. This approach, which draws heavily on ideas in the area of quality management, involves employers having an OS&H; management system comprising policies, structures and procedures which enable their organisation to lock on to its risks and achieve continuous improvement in performance. ROSPA (2001).

Having explained the characteristics of good practice management in health and safety cited by the HSE we move to consider six of the areas cited as potential concerns in part B, and in this respect we will use the care sector as a model of consideration. This sector has seen significant legislative changes that impact on health and safety practices.

We shall consider the areas of: Information & Communication Failure; Training & Continuing Professional Development; and Roles & Responsibilities.

Information within any working environment is essential in that, it must be provided in a format that is clearly understood. In the care settings, failure to display signage and statutory notices is often cited as a clear breach by inspectors and those engaged in ensuring compliance. These may be officers of the social services or the local health authority. Therefore it is essential that a care organisation displays statutory documents.

A care organisation that has failed to display such provisions may cost-effectively obtain related signage like: fire exit signs, fire extinguisher signs, health and safety regulations act, COSHH, RIDDOR, PPE, First Aid and Manual Handling posters to place in staff areas and public areas in a given setting. The display in the workplace of insurance policies and manual handling equipment operational instructions at the site are cited. The TUC advises employees that:

Your employer must provide you with the following information: Health and safety law: What you should know. This should give the contact details of people who can help; their health and safety policy statement. An up-to-date Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) certificate visible in your place of work. (HSE/TUC 2004)

The importance of good communication between employees in a care setting is essential to ensure that all cases or clients needs are consistently maintained and managed safely and effectively. For example, where in some settings violent clients/service users are a major part of the workers domain, adequate provision must be made for the safety of the employee. In this respect, good communication about the working period and its activities; must be adequately and verbally given to those taking over the shift This is commonly known as hand over, a system that takes place consistently in a good setting. Where this has failed, potential problems regarding safety of workers and service users are of concern. In a recent report by HSE, which is frequently provided to the sector, it was found that in care settings, the reporting of violent incidents was essential in the provision of health and safety:

Work-related violence can have serious consequences for employers and employees. It may have damaging physical and psychological effects and victims can suffer from serious injury, anxiety and stress. The cost to employers can also be high, for example, through low staff morale and high staff turnover. (HSE/SIM 2004).

Therefore, the given and most essential action for the management of such incidents was provided in that report as clear advice for action planning of inspecting in such care settings. It stated that:

Inspectors should where possible, seek to develop a joint programme of visits to care homes and small independent hospitals with both CSCI and Healthcare Commission, and concentrate on risk management systems for patient handling and violence. (HSE/SIM 2004).

Given this guidance, the care setting should ensure that their risk assessment and action plan should include measures for ensuring safety of staff; this in the main would include: duel staffing of some activities and even where the violent occurrence is beyond the scope of the care setting, re-assessment of the care plan of the service user and, where necessary, new and more appropriate facilities being found for that person.

Essential training of personnel in care settings on manual handling, first aid, and health and safety are mandatory under the Care Standards Act 2000. In settings where this provision is not provided internally by trained and qualified nursing staff, the setting should employ trainers annually for such purposes.

The health and safety action plan should reflect staff training needs; assessment of those needs; and, when completed, evidence of such undertakings. These are frequently inspected by the related regulators, as also are the training plans of each member of staff.

The primary objective of the [inspection] programme, is to ensure adequate control of manual handling and violence related issues during inspection of management systems in small independent hospitals and care homes. (HSE/SIM 2004)

Therefore, the key aspect for the care setting is to ensure that all personnel are effectively trained to the related standard of practice. The cost of training is a key element of funding provided to the employer by the related placing authority (NHS or Social Services), and therefore, employers cannot negate this important feature of employment. Equally, incentive schemes for training are also provided by the related sector skills councils and through the Modern Apprenticeship schemes.

Continuing Professional Development: this key area for season staff is essential in any care setting. Furthermore, the new legislation for the sector, requires that all workers are competent and at a proven educational level for the role being performed. In this respect, recent development require managers of settings to be qualified to level 4, in particular, most are required to hold or obtain the Registered Managers qualification which is essential for any person deemed in law to be the statutory registered manager for that setting.

On its website, Skills for Care (the sector skills council), states clearly that the requirements of the Care Standards Act 2000 are currently being implemented. The overall intention is to improve the quality of care provided and to ensure that services are what users want. Skills for Care (2006)

Therefore, the essential responsibility of management in care settings is to action plan this important compliance, seeking funding incentives and, where unavailable, ensure that within their business planning the provision is clearly budgeted and accounted.

The role of the person responsible for the management of health and safety must be clear and precise. This in itself is not an easy task. In many care settings this responsibility falls on the key manager, or matron. Anchor Homes, one of the largest providers of eldercare in the UK, was recently cited for good practice in a case study by HSE. It is to this study that we seek some understanding of such a demanding role. The Director, Barbara Laing, took personal control of the health and safety management to ensure that she understood and was able to ensure good practice prior to ensuring that her care home managers, some 105, were clear in the role they were contracted to perform. In her incentive she:

Focused on health and safety to ensure that the business got value for money from its investment in safety. Following training in health and safety management she took direct responsibility for safety in the business and led a review of safety management, clearly communicating to her Managers that she expected them to manage health and safety directly and cost effectively. (HSE/Anchor nd).

This incentive by the director ensured that managers would not have problems with role ambiguity and that her hands on approach ensured that managers at all levels in her business are aware of their role in achieving suitable health and safety standards. Jill Barlow, Head of Property & Health and Safety Services (HSE/Anchor nd). This incentive is a good example of sound practice and potentially is a key action point for any would-be manager of such a setting or, indeed, director.

Responsibilities. It is more essential to define responsibilities to ensure that communication is maintained and reporting strategies and procedures move across the organisation strategically. Therefore, making sure that a developed job specification is defined and measurable is an essential tool for health and safety managers. Or, where other responsibilities rest on the post holder, those health and safety responsibilities are clearly defined and are easy to assimilate as key responsibilities. Again, we will use Anchor Homes Director as a point of reference of good practice:

Barbara is very active in managing health & safety; clearly communicating her expectations to her management team and below, providing support in achieving them, and visibly demonstrating her personal commitment to monitoring and further improving safety within her business. Sue Edwards, Head of Operations (HSE/Anchor nd).

What is also significant is that as well as being the director she sees clearly the defined role of strategically managing this area of responsibility as a key business plus Agrees health & safety strategies, processes and standards with Board and Health & Safety Team and again provides clear incentive Signing safe home awards and sending personal notes to Managers who achieve high standards and directive Ensures that appropriate health & safety monitoring is in place and clearly ensuring that her managers know their operational duties as health and safety officers within their care settings, alongside other responsibilities:

The Head of Operations now has formal responsibility for directing health & safety in the business, while Barbara directs the overall strategy. Home Managers are formally responsible for safety in the homes. Residents and staff are consulted about acceptable levels of risk. (HSE/Anchor nd)

The management of health and safety is a growing and evolving area that will not diminish as society continues to explore better ways to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the working environment. The care industry is a model that will provoke and inform debate as it continues to move closer to stricter governance, mandated by government towards a more holistic regulated industry. In conclusion, the words of Barbara Laing, seem appropriate: directors of care organisations should: Think seriously about not only the governance issues, but also the business benefits in taking direct control and interest in health & safety. (HSE/Anchor nd).

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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