Board minutes often reflect health and safety as an agenda point, time is spent writing risk assessments and personal protective equipment is neatly stacked up in a cupboard in the office. These observations receive positive ticks during a health & safety audit but are relatively meaningless when the company’s health and safety system ‘stays’ in the office and does not get briefed into the staff

A significant amount of my time as a Health & Safety Advisor is spent explaining to Directors and Senior Managers about the concept of risk assessments, how to complete them and the importance of getting their staff to read and understand them. Many companies are fully stretched just getting everybody out to work; time spent briefing staff on subjects is all too often seen as unproductive and difficult to achieve so unfortunately does not get done.

A risk assessment should not be a one-off document. What an assessment should do is reflect the hazards that an employee faces when he goes out to work and what measures are in place to manage and control these risks so that the employee or others do not get hurt

The list of risk assessments to be done can sometimes be daunting; identify how accidents have happened from your accident book and start to write assessments relating to the most common accidents. As soon as they are done then get a representative group of employees to go through them with you and give you their comments. All too often the language and words used in health and safety documentation is not easily understood – by getting employees involved not only can you improve the vocabulary but you also improve buy-in

Your Supervisory staff plays a vital role in the process. They are often your eyes and ears on the shop-floor. Supervisors must make sure that risk assessments are followed – if they see that they are not, then they must address the matter and have your full support if the subject in question becomes an issue

Regularly review you risk assessments along with your Health and Safety Policy. This process can be done in H&S committees but also when there is an incident or an accident. Quite often the accident will have happened because the person(s) involved has not done what has been written down in the assessment

Health and safety should be a key part of your business, not something that just ticks the boxes!