‘Health and Safety’ is most frequently viewed as a series of processes and procedures that are in put in place by organisations to make the working environment a safe place. In many organisations, the responsibility lies predominantly with the Health and Safety department and the rest of the organisation follow the instructions laid down. Indeed, some organisations have such a commitment to Health and Safety from the top that they employ a ‘zero tolerance’ rule whereby contravention of any rule or procedure results in immediate disciplinary action. Conversely, there are also many examples of companies that have a less dictatorial approach to Health and Safety, where the individuals look after themselves and hopefully they get home safely each evening. Such a range of approach to Health and Safety is both concerning and interesting. Through the course of this article, I want to challenge conventional views, question current approaches and present some personal perspectives that will hopefully result in some reconsideration of how we might address ‘Health and Safety.’
Without doubt, two things that raise concerns for me and get the frustration rising are lengthy policy statements full of corporate, management speak and the fact that consultants have been brought in to write the Health and Safety system. Admittedly, there are specific areas within Health and Safety that certainly benefit from a ‘Specialist’ input, but the application of that information and the way it is used should not be the domain of the external consultant. After all, who knows your business better; the generic consultants or the people working there? How often do we see generic things put in place for organisations that are anything but run of the mill. It is my view that Health and Safety must be personalised, made real to every individual and not made into big corporate statements. The best way to do that is to involve them into the writing of the system in the first place and use their words to describe the risks and the controls and, indeed use their experience to identify areas of risk and propose solutions.