By Simon Olliff, Banyard Solutions
Some 80 years ago, Herbert Heinrich theorised the link between major industrial incidents and no injury occurrences. His triangle, with the 1-29-300 ratio, identified that in a group of 330 similar accidents, 300 will produce no injury, 29 will result in minor injuries and 1 will result in serious injury, shines on a light on the importance of less severe incidents, in a much wider context.
Heinrich’s rationale summises that fatalities in the workplace do not occur as stand alone incidents and instead, form part of an underlying pattern. He advocated an immediate method to solving the issue through controlling individual activity and the wider environment, and a longer term strategy of a training and education process.
Sidney Dekker’s contemporary ‘Safety Differently’ theory contradicts Heinrich’s initial observations. ‘Safety Differently’ calls for the abolishment of zero harm policies and the notion that all accidents are preventable, instead accepting that accidents are an inevitable part of working life. John Green at Laing O’Rouke advocated Dekker’s approach and consequently decided to implement it across UK sites, heralding it as the only way to really change fatality rates.
Taking key learnings from Dekker, Green focused on people’s ability to manage risk intuitively as the solution: a positive approach, considering moral responsibility and utilising individual expertise and experience. Officially launched in January 2017, the full impact of this new strategy is still unknown, but this new way of thinking has also faced some criticism. Construction Union UCATT warned that Laing O’Rourke’s safety policy stood to “erode the very foundations of the UK’s health and safety culture…policy focuses entirely on preventing fatalities while neglecting actions which may cause minor injuries.” We can see why.
Banyard Solutions are the innovators of the UK’s first and leading web-based permit-to-work system that was developed over 13-years ago. The product has had a major societal impact, saving numerous people’s lives, preventing avoidable incidents and ensuring that more contractors, employees, visitors and members of the general public go home safe everyday. The establishment and development of e-permits as an industry standard tool has had a profound impact on both the safety of workers and the improvement in business continuity.
Power of People
The systematic use of processes and procedures in an organisation remain critical in incident prevention. How else can you be completely confident that your workforce is compliant and protected? Expecting people to act instinctively places a huge amount of pressure on them to get it right every single time, without fail.
Good health and safety programmes need to be supported and actioned at board level. With this in mind, is health and safety part of your businesses’ corporate governance programme and something senior levels of the business have complete knowledge of? If not, it should be.
Corporate Governance: Explained
Corporate governance is the system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled, ensuring that all interests are balanced; across shareholders, customers, suppliers and government. When executed effectively, it can prevent a host of issues. The value of solid corporate governance strategies was highlighted in a recent BBC News article in July 2017. In the review of working practices in the modern economy, responsible corporate governance was championed as part of a larger picture of ensuring a healthier workplace, developing skills, and improving education and training and working conditions. Health and safety management does, and should, form part of this and often, is not something activated and more importantly, monitored by senior management.
To take responsibility and true ownership of health and safety through corporate governance, the Health and Safety Executive recommends:
health and safety arrangements are adequately resourced;
they obtain competent health and safety advice;
risk assessments are carried out;
employees or their representatives are involved in decisions that affect their health and safety.
We aren’t seeing enough corporate governance plans with health and safety at the heart; something is still not sticking at boardroom level. Changes or improvements to safety processes often come only after an incident has occurred. This is evident in the British Sugar example, where the company made the decision to amend health and safety policy in 2003 following three corporate deaths. It became central to the company’s corporate governance programme. Behavioural change was the focus, and included the CEO assigning health and safety responsibilities to all directors, with monthly reports at board level, as well as new overseeing of a behavioural change programme and audits.
time lost to injuries reduced by 43% over a two year period;
63% reduction in major issues over the course of a year;
much greater understanding by directors of health and safety risks
Sainsbury’s made the decision to develop a unified approach to health and safety following an external audit; not an incident, breaking the typical cycle. The corporate governance programme included the group HR director creating a health and safety vision, supported with three year plan targets. In addition, all board directors received training on health and safety policies.
the board providing a role model for health and safety behaviour;
17% reduction in sickness absence;
28% reduction in reportable incidents;
improved morale and pride in working for the company;
raising the profile of health and safety so it is becoming embedded in the culture of the organisation.
The financial costs for health and safety breaches are mounting, and the total fines rose to an all time high of £54 million in 2016-17, up from £37million in 2015-16. ‘Safety Differently’ risks undermining the very processes in our workplaces that have resulted in the UK having one of the best health and safety records in the world. Never underestimate the importance of ensuring senior levels of your business are completely tuned in to health and safety, understanding how simple measures can change outcomes. Start conversations in your boardroom now, and get it right before it all goes wrong.