Influences on Health and Safety
There are two basic issues influencing health and safety and these are:
- Internal Influences
- External Influences
1) Production Demands
When production is a priority then health and safety issues can be seen as a hindrance. Good health and safety practice should be seen as helping organizations to meet their production targets. Any health and safety procedure that is seen to slow the job down or make the job harder will generally be ignored.
2) Management Commitment
It is important that management shows its commitment to health and safety as this sets the standard within the organization.
Good lines of communication both up and down are essential in improving health and safety. If employees can see that action is being taken when defects are reported they will feel that the organization is committed to improving health and safety.
It is important that employees feel properly trained and competent to carry out the functions that are required of them.
5) Employee Representative
It is very important that employees feel that they are represented in the decision making process on health and safety matters as they then will take “ownership” of the procedures laid down.
There are many external influences on an organization. They will have varying influence depending on the current state of health and safety within the organization. Some of the more important influences are:
Companies are generally expected to make a profit for the shareholders and obviously the drive to make this profit can conflict with good health and safety practice and encourage “cutting of corners”.
- Social Expectations
Society today has a great awareness of health and safety and environmental issues and expects organizations to meet their responsibilities. Bad publicity can have an adverse effect on a business operation.
There is a vast amount of legislation on health and safety in many countries and it is continually growing. Meeting the requirements of legislation puts increasing costs on to industry which can create conflict.
For legislation to influence organizations they must either want to comply or there has to be a real prospect of punishment for non-compliance.
Enforcement has a significant role in influencing an organization’s level of performance with regard to health and safety. If the focus of the enforcement agency is on technical specifics then organizations will tend to follow this lead and deal with these issues. It is therefore important that the enforcing agencies demonstrate the value of an interest in seeing organizations use technical, procedural and behavioural preventive measures. The relative influence of the enforcement agencies is highly dependent on them being sufficiently field active to contact a significant number of organizations.
It would not be a balanced influence if the only time they were seen was when there had been an accident. They therefore have to be seen by organizations before accidents occur, encouraging planned preventive actions.
- Insurance companies
All private sector employers must have approved insurance policies against liability for injury or disease sustained by their employees in the course of their employment. Most insurance companies which provide liability insurance have terms of qualified and competent surveyors who undertake surveys of client’s premises. They report back on their general impression of the organization. Obviously premiums can rise if the report is unfavourable or there are unacceptable levels of accidents and claims.
- Trade Union
Trade Unions have always been involved in attempting to improve working conditions and this has involved health and safety matters. The aim is make representation with the government departments on matters relating to health and safety.
A number of trade unions sponsor Members of Parliament. However, very little legislation regarding health and safety grants any rights to Trade Unions. One obvious piece of legislation is the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 which granted Trade Unions the right to appoint Safety Representatives.
A major area of Trade Union involvement in health and safety is compensation claims. The unions offer their members free legal representation for undertaking claims. Many unions have retained firms of solicitors, who specialize in dealing with compensational claims. In previous years this was of great benefit to those who could not afford to take out claims, although this situation is changing with solicitors offering ‘no win no fee’. Those who are not members of Trade Unions are now much more able to take civil actions. In the U.K, Trade Unions are represented on the Health and Safety Commission.
(Get the full part of this syllabus from the May Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)