By Ian Stone, Operations Manager at IPG Systems
Business owners, building managers and health & safety professionals have a responsibility to ensure the safety of staff, visitors and the general public. The implications of failure can be serious injury or even death. While the risk of an incident occurring may seem low, the impact can be very high and therefore vigilance is a key factor in reducing risk.
There are a number of practical steps that can be followed that help towards ensuring you are fully compliant, from understanding the risks associated with all your assets and plant, through to ensuring you have processes in place to fully track all your legal obligations, and importantly, to know that the required inspections, tests and maintenance have all been completed.
With this in mind, we have produced the following practical A-to-Z guide that offers some outline tips that help towards achieving health and safety compliance in the workplace:
Auditing and Reporting
The objectives of health and safety auditing are to provide evidence and assurance that statutory health and safety requirements are being satisfied. Larger firms are required to have formal procedures in place for auditing performance and controls. Supporting audit guides are available to access via the HSE’s website, in addition to a number of software tools that have been created to help simplify the auditing process.
British Safety Council
The British Safety Council is a charity that works in conjunction with businesses to help improve health, safety and environmental management. It provides a range of training courses that provide accredited qualifications, in addition to auditing services to help provide an impartial view of your existing health and safety processes, guidelines and reporting systems.
It is imperative that your internal health and safety policy is communicated to all staff members. Awareness of the rules is a vital consideration; therefore steps must be in place to ensure all staff members are kept up to date on the most current regulations so individual staff members are not unintentionally breaching any rules.
Rather than track risk assessments, tasks, deadlines and reporting manually, today many organisations have turned to online, centralised systems. From reactive maintenance requests, through to coordinating risk assessments; everything is logged so the status of jobs can be monitored and detailed reports or audit trails accessed at any time.
According to recent research, approximately 30 deaths occur each year from electric shocks or related burns. Risks include poorly installed electrics, faulty appliances or portable equipment.
A risk assessment should be carried out to assess the potential electrical hazards in the workplace. New electrical systems should meet the latest BS7671 standard, sockets should never be overloaded with extension points, and individual appliances should all be PAT tested.
Periodic preventative maintenance should take place by a qualified engineer and internal processes should make sure that a designated representative is alerted to any potential defects or visible concerns.
A thorough assessment should be carried out to understand what fire hazards are present and to determine what precautions are required. Having assessed the risks, create a precautionary plan; from evacuation, signage, lighting, sprinklers and extinguishers to creating an emergency plan, undertaking regular drills and assigning staff members to support the fire safety plan. Create a detailed record that audits the findings and put in a place a planned review of the risk assessment to ensure it remains current and adheres to the latest regulations.
All property landlords are legally responsible for the safety of tenants with regards to gas safety. It is important that an annual gas safety check is carried out on every gas appliance by an accredited professional and a record of the inspection must be kept on file. Proof of any maintenance work should also be retained for future auditing purposes.
Health and Safety Executive
As an independent regulator, the HSE works in the interests of the public and is focused on reducing death or serious injuries that occur in workplaces across the UK. The HSE issues regular updates, advice pieces and resources on its website.
Assign and incentivise staff to enforce, monitor, track and maintain health and safety guidelines and rules. Ultimately, accountability is key and so assigning staff members to oversee specific tasks will ensure rules are fully adhered to.
Job Tracking & Record Keeping
In many cases, it is a legal requirement to keep certain health and safety records available for inspection to demonstrate compliance. It also enables senior managers to monitor health and safety performance across the organisation. Today, many organisations track their full documentation via dedicated software tools that can be accessed online and even via mobile devices. This ensures that records are kept fully up to date, including tracking pending jobs or tasks to ensure they are completed within the required timeframes.
Training is an important factor in ensuring compliance — therefore it is vital that members of your workforce are correctly trained so they understand your organisation’s stance regarding health and safety and the role they play in implementing the policy. They need to be aware of specific rules that fit within your business type and also within their specific day-to-day role. It is important to assess the training needs of all staff, regardless of the level they operate at.
Health and safety policy should be driven from the top of a business, with the management team and members of the board taking responsibility for the overall direction of health and safety management. As such, formal reviews of health and safety policies, monitoring and compliance should be assessed in formal board or management meetings.
Maintenance & Testing
A large element of aiding compliance is to ensure that all buildings, facilities, plant, appliances and systems are tested or maintained to ensure they are in good repair and are operating as safely and efficiently as possible. A lack of maintenance or inadequate testing can ultimately lead to dangerous scenarios, potential accidents or health issues and so testing and maintenance must be automatically scheduled as a result.
Assess whether there is a risk to employees or visitors to your premises or site as a result of being exposed to excessive noise. The HSE has published a number of helpful noise calculators that can be used to calculate your daily exposure to noise. http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/calculator.htm.
Occupational Health and Safety
This field of occupational health and safety incorporates a wide spectrum of areas, including occupational hygiene, public health, working at heights, safety engineering, work-related stress, industrial engineering, ergonomics and occupational health psychology to name just a few. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health carries a wide range of resources, training and books that support health and safety practitioners in this field - http://www.iosh.co.uk.
Non-compliance of health and safety regulations can lead to conviction or prosecution, particularly for organisations that have put individuals at risk of injury or even death. Since 2007, statistics show that over 550 HSE cases resulted in prosecution, with a conviction secured in 517. Local authorities prosecuted 129 cases, of which 125 secured a conviction. In all, those found guilty of health and safety offences have faced fines totalling £2.2 million.
Schedule formal quarterly reviews to analyse existing processes and internal systems for tracking health and safety, as well as to ensure the latest rules are being adhered to within your working environment. Also, issue quarterly updates to all staff members regarding your policies to ensure they are kept informed of the rules at all times.
Should an incident occur in the workplace that leads to prosecution, the employer will be required to prove that everything reasonably practicable has been undertaken to avoid the risk in question. Therefore, thorough risk assessments across all areas of your business are essential. Detailed assessments should outline the perceived risks, summarise what steps are being implemented to address or avoid the risks, and detailed reports should qualify that steps have been followed and regular maintenance or monitoring is taking place to maintain this position.
With the progression of the internet, mobile-tools and collaborative working, a range of software applications are available that greatly support professionals manage the complete compliancy process. By being able to record and monitor deadlines, log risk assessments, handle maintenance or similar tasks electronically, it helps create efficiencies, automates many previously-manual tasks and improves productivity.
Trips, Slips and Falls
Research has shown that most falls that occur on flat surfaces are as a result of the surface being slippery due to poor or incomplete housekeeping or general faults with the surface itself. It is therefore vital to ensure that routine tours of all facilities are maintained. Many organisations use mobile devices to track such patrols so they are undertaken at set times, and ‘ticked off’ once completed. This provides a clear audit trail to demonstrate which areas have been checked and will also ensure that any housekeeping requirements are kept on top of.
Regular consultations take place regarding the UK’s health and safety legislations, in order to update or amend existing policies. Therefore ensure you are kept up to date with the latest consultations by visiting the HSE’s consultation page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/live.htm
Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, there is a legal requirement for building owners to ensure that their air conditioning or ventilation systems are inspected in order to track the energy efficiency of the units. Energy reporting hubs, such as www.questcommercial.co.uk, provide a quick way to order inspections for air conditioning, display energy certificates and Energy Performance Certificates, as needed.
The recent cases of Legionnaires disease in Scotland in which three people died are stark reminders of the importance of ensuring testing, inspection and compliance is in order on all water systems within public buildings, offices or sites. The Legionella Control Association and the Health Protection Agency provide a lot of in-depth information regarding the testing and reporting requirements to avoid this serious disease.
We invited two independent specialists to provide their views and guidance on what they believe to be the most effective ways to monitor and control Health and Safety compliance in buildings:
Nick Hughes, Compliance Manager, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway
• What is the single most important way of preventing Health and Safety incidents?
The single most important way of preventing health and safety incidents is to reduce as far as reasonably practicable the potential for Human Error. This involves the implementation of a range of measures identified during the risk assessment phase including the use of an effective task management system to manage and monitor the full range of compliance requirements.
• How do you track risk factors associated with each area of your building?
We use Centre Monitor to monitor and review all aspects of risk management. The risks in the building can be viewed as operational, procedural, and behavioural. Failings of these aspects can lead to incidents occurring, but all of these aspects can be managed effectively by a task management system.
By inputting all relevant data into Centre Monitor, and providing employee interfaces with it in the form of web based access and PDAs, employees know what they should be doing and when they should be doing it.
This could be a cleaning tour to detect spillages of litter and liquids, maintenance of a gas boiler, or the testing of the fire alarm system.
The system allows for reactive tasks to be raised against a location or an asset so that issues arising can be tracked through reports that can be created for all site operations or individually by department or discipline.
These reports are reviewed by management to ensure targets and objectives are met, and the monitoring system as a whole assists in meeting the requirements of PAS 99.
• How effective are regular inspections in preventing incidents?
Regular inspections are very effective in preventing incidents. The schedules of inspections and tours inputted into Centre Monitor provide all levels of employees with a daily task list, and allow for effective inspection coverage of the entire site throughout each day. This helps to identify unsafe conditions before they arise so that they may be logged and dealt with appropriately. These inspections may identify simple litter or spillage issues to more long term issues such as failing machinery. When they are logged through Centre Monitor their rectification can be tracked, and the records stored indefinitely for use in litigation arising from incidents that may occur.
• What three practical tips would you provide on the most effective ways to monitor and control Health and Safety compliance in your buildings?
The most effective way to manage compliance in buildings is to implement a monitoring system that is easy for all to use and understand.
However, any compliance management system is only as effective as the information on which it is based. Therefore at the design stage, the developers should involve those with competencies in the disciplines required to operate the building, including compliance managers, engineers, technical experts, industry experts, and employees where appropriate, to create a system that covers all of the buildings aspects. These aspects will be derived from a thorough risk assessment and the creation of a legal register.
All those who subsequently use the system must be effectively trained in its use, and be able to understand the importance of their input into the operation of the monitoring system.
Ensuring the monitoring system is reviewed regularly will keep the information relevant, and maintain employee commitment to its use. This is essential as inaccurate or irrelevant information in a system undermines the value both in terms of legal requirements and employee perception.
John Neville, Managing Director, R.R. Richardson
• What is the single most important way of preventing Health and Safety incidents?
"Here at R R Richardsons, our business is focused on protecting the health and safety of all our employees, customers and everybody and everything that might be affected by the work we carry out. We help support a range of clients manage and maintain their property portfolios, including Housing Associations and living accommodations across a variety of sectors including MOD, health care and education. Therefore it is critical that effective steps are in place to ensure all properties under their control are fully compliant with the legal health and safety requirements.
It comes natural to us to incorporate Health and Safety into everything we do. By making it part of life, not an added extra, we are able to ensure the safety and good health of our staff, all customers and the general public. We therefore believe that the single most important way of preventing incidents is to develop a business-wide culture. The best way to achieve this is to centralise the tracking and control of health and safety compliance in one place, alongside our job tracking and dispatch systems.
This means that all of our staff members are well equipped with the latest information and have up-to-date support to ensure the job is done safely, as well as efficiently.”
• How effective are regular inspections in preventing incidents?
"For any landlord with a property rental portfolio, there are many rules and legislations in place that must be adhered to in order to ensure tenants are living in a safe and hazard-free environment. As we all know, failure to comply is costly with the standard penalty standing at at-least £6,000 per case, and in certain situations it could even lead to court proceedings or even imprisonment for up to six-months. Therefore, regular audited inspections are a requirement that aid compliancy, whilst helping prevent any incidents from occurring.
At Richardson's, we have combined our Risk Assessments, Method Statements and Operating Procedures into a single online system that makes it easy to find what you're looking for, keeps you ahead of the game in terms of compliancy deadlines to make sure there is no lapse in protection and, ultimately, ensures a consistent and safe way of working for all of our team."
• What practical advice would you provide on the most effective ways to monitor and control Health and Safety compliance in your buildings?
"A suggestion would be to equip your staff with a supporting system that automatically issues alerts when an inspection is due or a compliancy deadline is approaching. The automated nature of such systems mean that no inspections are missed, which from our point of view ensures we meet our strict SLAs and that clients are compliant at all times. This provides solid safeguards and helps avoid any unnecessary fines, and that, at the end of the day, our client's tenants are living in a well maintained, safe environment."