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Chris Pollington CMIOSH

How to Improve The Management and Leadership of Health and Safety

January 2019

All organisations and businesses have a duty to implement health and safety procedures regardless of industry or size.

In past years significant improvements have been made in workplace health and safety, with much of this down to those in leadership and management positions taking a more proactive approach to health and safety.

However, implementing effective health and safety management isn’t a quick job. It takes training, a level playing field, and management and leadership staff who take health and safety issues seriously. These are unfortunately, not things you find in every business.

Leadership Vs. Management

Firstly, let’s clarify what Leadership and Management mean and what makes them different. The key difference between Leadership and Management is that Leadership is very much about inspiring cultural changes within an organisation for the better. Management on the other hand focuses more on planning and execution of said cultural changes.

Leadership

If leadership was to be split into a series of typical tasks, it would include:

  • Setting a clear vision for the future of health and safety within the organisation
  • Establishing a method of communication and tone of voice for health and safety issues
  • Demonstrating commitment, knowledge and learning

Management

On the other hand, management might look a little something like:

  • Ensuring the required health and safety accreditations are held by relevant members of staff.
  • Maintaining any relevant health and safety resources, ensuring members of staff have easy access to these.
  • Monitoring and reviewing health and safety performance against set goals.

The two work in unison to create a health and safety culture and ensure the relevant steps are taken to maintain that culture.

How Can You Improve Your Business’ Health and Safety Management?

Health and safety management doesn’t need to be an endless list of rules and regulations dictated to your workforce. In fact, the HSE suggest there are just 3 key things to effectively manage health and safety within a business:

  1. Leadership and management (including appropriate business processes): Leaders and managers at all levels should be aware of the potential health and safety risks in their departments. Working together to give ample attention to each risk, reporting on health and safety issues, and communicating to the rest of the workforce, are key parts of leadership and management roles.
  2. A trained/skilled workforce: Having staff trained in health and safety standards will not only improve their behaviour, it often has a positive impact on the importance of good health and safety practice. Courses like the NEBOSH General Certificate are ideal for upskilling your workforce and very popular with Managers, the foundations of good health and safety.
  3. An environment where people are trusted and involved in developing health and safety processes: As discussed in our post on Improving Health and Safety Culture, allowing staff ‘on the ground’ to feedback and have an input on health and safety procedures is key. Often it is those closest to the hands-on work and production that experience the most issues with health and safety - making their knowledge absolutely invaluable. This point involves both leadership, to promote an environment where people are trusted, and management to ensure feedback is collected and implemented in a productive way.

These three elements make for a working environment with a level playing field, meaning everyone is able to feedback on how health and safety is managed and discuss the issues that are present. However, at the very core of this, is staff training.

Providing not only managerial staff and those that support the management network with training means you are much more likely to have successful health and safety management.  However good leadership is demonstrated by ensuring everyone has a similar outlook on health and safety and understands its importance. Both of these things can be helped with effective health and safety training.

How Can Health & Safety Management Be Measured?

To support the 3 key elements to successful health and safety management, there are 5 questions your organisation should be able to answer fully.

Ensuring everyone in the business can answer these demonstrates effective health and safety management. Quite often these 5 answers act as a way of reviewing how effective your health and safety management and leadership is, and where the gaps lie:

  1. How is health and safety information communicated throughout the business/organisation? If there is no clear way of communicating, it is quite likely that there are people who are completely unaware of certain information, and some that wouldn't know where to look even if they wanted to find it!
  2. How is health and safety performance reviewed? If there is no concise way of reviewing performance, it will be difficult to know how health and safety management can be improved or managed slightly better.
  3. How is health and safety considered in the running of the business day to day? Making health and safety a core consideration for running the business will ensure that all decisions are made with the health and safety of employees in mind. This makes the management of health and safety much more efficient and ensures that any issues are prevented right from the onset. 
  4. Who is responsible for health and safety? Are there multiple people for different things? Having someone clearly responsible for the  management of health and safety within the business is crucial. It means there is a designated person accountable for any issues who is in charge of promoting effective leadership and management throughout the business.
  5. Who should staff go to for health and safety advice in the workplace? Similar to the above point, it is important that staff know who to go to in the event of a breach in health and safety or if they have any questions on policies. If team members don't know who to turn to, the likelihood is that they won't tell anyone about any negative issues they witness, meaning there is greater potential for risks to present themselves.

Providing an effective and consistent way of communicating health and safety information to the workforce is essential. This will be a dedicated person(s)/ team responsible for health and safety and company intranet for example as a source of necessary HSE information and provides a solid foundation for successful health and safety management.

However, ensuring that procedures are reviewed regularly and that health and safety is considered in the day to day running of the business truly helps develop a positive health and safety culture. Health and safety strategy needs to be integrated into the business and management systems and procedures by the senior managers in order to take your HSE management to the next level.

All of these points require both leadership and management to work effectively together and, if done correctly, will take your organisation’s health and safety to the next level.

If you would like more information on health and safety training for your workforce, take a look at the NEBOSH General Certificate Info pack for everything you need to know about the course and how to get your staff health and safety trained.

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