Today is World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which aims to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.
Attention by business across the world has been understandably diverted to the Covid-19 pandemic – not an illness generated by work of course, but nevertheless, an issue for employers to avoid being part of the further spread of the virus and its variants through its workers and visitors, and to avoid large numbers of staff being simultaneously ill and unable to work.
Today, however, is perhaps an opportunity to step back and remember that, according to the International Labour Organization, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 60 million victims of work-related illness annually with over 6,000 deaths every day attributed to a workplace accident and disease.
With workforces returning to workplaces that may have been closed for a period due to the pandemic, and plant and machinery getting going again, take today to pause, and think about actioning 3 Rs:
- It has been a time of change which means that previous risk assessments need to be revisited. Ensure the risk assessments still address work as it is now carried out.
- Check that control measures are based on the hierarchy of controls that aims to eliminate each hazard or minimise the risk by focussing first on engineered solutions, then administrative controls and then, only as a last resort, personal protective equipment.
- Check that statutory inspections such as required for lifting gear through LOLER and those required for the control of legionella are up to date.
- Where staff (and contractors) have not been in the workplace for some time, refresher training is prudent to ensure they remain familiar with safe work procedures and risk controls as well as emergency procedures and first aid.
- Culturally, refresher training is also a reminder that the business takes health and safety seriously.
- Having current health and safety arrangements in place is one thing – ensuring ongoing compliance with them is another. Reviews are an important part of effective risk management, not just to keep material up to date, but to ensure people continue to behave as expected and in compliance with your arrangements.
- Audits are a structured way of undertaking such reviews and checks and these can be carried out internally or independently.
And as 3Rs have an “s” at the end, think also about using that “S” to prompt SHARING.
There is a common interest in ensuring that our staff, our contractors, our visitors and indeed anyone who may be impacted by our work is safe. Health and Safety is not a competitive area – we should all be aiming to eliminate avoidable injury and death and be motivated to help others achieve that objective by promoting safe practices that have worked in our business and sharing good practice.
Sharing good practical risk control solutions benefits all. It is after all unlikely to be a coincidence that world day for health and safety at work coincides with the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers.
Sue Dearden is a specialist Health and Safety Solicitor and Dr Steve Cowley is a Chartered Occupational Health and health and safety expert, both at Finch Consulting. If you have any questions arising from this article or need help with risk assessments, training or audits, please get in touch via email at [email protected] or by phone at 01530 412 777.