Every business is a living thing and ideally should outlive its founder – but this is not always the case. Many have unsustainable processes and constantly run at a loss and one day it just gives up the ghost. Many businesses especially in Nigeria do not understand the need for Health and Safety – I have heard many say Safety is for Oil and Gas companies and they fail to realise that this way of thinking affects their businesses, its finances and productivity. More often than not, these business have no clue or idea on how much they are losing just because they do not know Health and Safety. Today however, I am not going to talk directly about the finances of your business (I am no financial adviser 😉 ) but rather talk about 5 essentials safety elements every business should have to prevent running at a loss, afterall safety is what this blog is about.
First, every business must acknowledge that its work, processes and workplaces have hazards present in them and your employees and visitors could be exposed to them. Hazards could be in form of loads whether handles by machine or manually; dangerous machinery/equipments; toxic substances; electricity; noise; working with display screen equipment (DSE) and psychological hazards such as stress and burnout. In a previous post, I mentioned how just one hazard can present many risks and how the fact that they need to and can be managed and controlled properly. Not controlling these hazards could have adverse effects on your work and its activities. Your employees and members of the public could end up having health problems. With ill health comes absence from work and even presenteeism (where one is present at work for example when ill and therefore not productive). All these problems usually take a toll on the financial growth of the business. So not only workers suffer as a result of a failed health and safety system or the lack of it; employers and businesses also suffer financial loss and low productivity.
What can be done? Here are 5 essentials elements you need to imbibe into your business.
1. Understand your duty towards maintaining good Health and safety. Safety does not just happen. It is not magic and not a matter of your faith or belief in God. I find it distasteful and annoying when I hear people say “God forbid” or “It won’t happen in Jesus name” when one is trying to point out the dangers in their acts or surroundings. Safety has got nothing to do with your faith. Do the best you can. If it looks dangerous then it most likely is dangerous and you should do something about it and not hope for divine intervention. We need to make conscious efforts to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
- Do we have an effective health and safety management system in place? (Check that you have clear policies and objectives in place)
- Who are the people designated to help achieve them? Are they doing their job? are they ignoring their aspect of their job? What training do they need?
- Is there a competent person to help us comply with our duties?
- Have we identified your main hazards and assessed the risks involved? If so, what control measures do we have in place? Are they adequate or do we need to do more? Are they being applied when and where necessary?
- Are we monitoring progress? (This can be achieved by inspecting the workplace regularly, investigating accidents and near misses and learning from mistakes).
- Have we set a date to review our safety performance against our plans?
2. Make safety a key business objective. Apart from our moral duty towards maintaining good health and safety, it makes good business sense to have safety at the forefront of your organisation. It should be a business objective with 0% risk tolerance. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be faced with any hazards and risks but rather you should have zero tolerance for them and the accidents they cause. It should be considered a battle you do not want to lose. Safety should be taken as more important than any other key business objective. Ensure the absence of risk to safety and health of employees and others as much as you can and ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. You do not need expensive gadgets or unnecessary jargons to maintain safety.
My desire is for Health and Safety to be at the forefront of every business in Nigeria. Every business/organisation should have a system in place to manage Health & Safety. You need to have a policy, designate people and have clear procedures. Ideally, if you employ more than five people, you should have these procedures written out and have a clear health and safety policy statement. You should be able to show how you plan, organise, monitor and review preventative / control measures. You need to appoint a competent person(s) to help you comply with your legal obligations. This is where consultants like me come in 😉 . We support businesses to meet their health and safety responsibilities thereby helping your company save millions.
3. Team work. No one can achieve a safe and healthy working environment on their own. It has to be a team effort. You need to consult and involve your employees. All your employees need to have ownership and commitment to safety throughout the workplace – from management to the least member of staff. Remember that apart from protecting your employees, the environment, and the public, taking action to have or improve your health and safety system can make a major contribution to the success of your business. No company is immune to accidents and occupational ill health so don’t wait for things to go wrong before putting a Health and Safety system in place. Build Health and Safety in from the very beginning.
4. Training, retraining and more training. Training can never be too much. Don’t hesitate to train and inform your staff before they start working for you or are exposed to hazard. Here is an article I wrote on the importance of training of your staff before exposing them to hazards. You might also be confused about when the best time is to train your staff – read this article on assessing training needs. It tells you exactly how to determine when and what training to give to your staff.
5. Monitor your progress and continually evaluate your company’s performance. You need to be sure that everything you are doing to maintain safety at work is working, to pinpoint where you are now as a company and where you we want to be in the near and far future when it comes Health and Safety. There is no point doing so much and spending money without checking that you are making progress. You can create a checklist to help guide you. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you get the best out of your monitoring exercise.
I hope you found this post useful and will begin to make changes however little they are. If you have any questions, please leave a commment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.