While we think that our workplaces are inherently safe, health and safety breaches and accidents can occur.
Recently we blogged about the latest HSE workplace fatality figures. While very few incidents at work will result in death, there are a lot of accidents. There were over half a million non-fatal injuries to workers that were self-reported in 2018 while employers reported over 70,000.
Accidents at work and safety breaches by staff are common.
Many managers and other staff aren’t 100% sure what to do in this situation. While common sense and first aid training will help in the immediate aftermath if someone is hurt, what does a company have to do to meet its legal requirements? In this update we’re going to show you:
- Legally what a company has to do in regards to health and safety
- How to handle any potential PR problems
- What to do going forward
- How training can help
First things first, legally, what do businesses have to do?
What are your legal requirements?
As we have written about many times, employers need to keep their staff safe under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), while employees also have a duty to work safely.
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or your health and safety policy. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to actually have one or carry a risk assessment out – just that it doesn’t need to be written down.
In many cases having a health and safety policy and carrying out a risk assessment is quite straightforward. It is something that sounds very complicated but depending on the nature of your business, it can be fairly easy.
The HSE have a template you can use for this.
One thing that some organisations fail to do is to engage their staff when it comes to risk assessments and health and safety issues. Employees are usually the best place to advise on risk when doing specific jobs or how changes in health and safety policy will impact the workplace.
Involving everyone at work in the process will help foster a positive safety culture.
In terms of legal responsibilities, businesses need to report and keep a log of incidents, injuries and work-related diseases. Not only is this a legal duty, but it also helps organisations to monitor trends and will assist with risk assessments too.
How to handle the PR
The public relations side of things can be painful for some businesses to deal with.
When it comes to a small accident at work that doesn’t result in severe injury or fallout, then there isn’t likely to be much media attention or reputation damage. However, if there’s a serious safety breach, you may need to deal with the subsequent damage to your business, and it’s profile.
Ignoring this media and public attention and hoping it will go away is likely to result in reduced business, profits, attention from pressure groups. Ultimately costing you in the short and long term.
The most effective way in which to deal with the public relations side of things after a significant health and safety incident is to be proactive rather than reactive. This means planning ahead of time, so you need to have a policy and strategy already in place.
In an age where most people get the latest news simply by opening a social media app on their phone, reputational damage for health and safety incidents can be devastating. That being said, if you have a solid plan in place to deal with the fall out of any breaches or accidents, then the damage to your business can be managed.
People have far more respect of organisations that hold their hands up and say they got it wrong (if that is the case) rather than blaming other people if they weren’t at fault.
You can find some tips and examples of the fallout from health and safety incidents for several companies here.
Health and safety training
Unfortunately, accidents at work do happen.
Even if you have created a healthy and robust safety culture at work and taken all the necessary precautions, things can still go wrong.
The best way to deal with health and safety problems is to do your best to make sure that they don’t happen in the first place.
Training is a key step in preventing incidents. Popular training courses include IOSH Leading Safely, IOSH Managing Safely and also IOSH Working Safely aimed at different levels in your organisation. Although accredited training has it’s benefits, just improving the induction you deliver to new staff, or considering that regular updates and toolbox talks can benefit staff even if they’ve been there years.
Some firms take the wrong approach with the media side of things and this can result in long-lasting (and sometimes permanent) reputation damage which sees their sales and profits fall.
Tackling things the right way by making sure that you have a health and safety policy and risk assessment, investing in the right training for everyone in your organisation and having a PR strategy will go a long way to not just ensuring safety but limiting any potential damage to your business as well.