Maintaining your health and safety standards in 2021 and beyond
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
Businesses as well as employees have had to pivot in the most unbelievable ways in the last 11 months. No one could have foreseen the obstacles that businesses and companies have had to overcome in 2020.
In the beginning of the pandemic, it was hard to know left from right and there was a flurry of polices being written and updated and the almost never ending of yellow and black signs that popped up everywhere you looked. The printers and the sign companies couldn’t keep up with demand!
Whilst all of this was necessary, it absolutely made other health and safety issues take a back seat. I know from experience the hard work and investment it takes, to get a company into a situation where health and safety are priority. I remember in my early days of working as a Health and Safety manager, listening to a well-seasoned health and safety expert, who informed me that it could take up to eight years to get a company to change its behaviours towards health and safety and it is only then you would see the huge positive impact. I remember thinking, oh my God, what have I gotten myself into! Fast forward seven years later in that same company and low and behold, he was right. I remember feeling proud about how far that company had come and all the positive changes we had made, which resulted in a safer working environment for everyone and almost zero accidents. The reason why I am telling you this story, is that its time to remember all the other aspects of health and safety now. You have put the time and effort into managing the COVID situation and you will continue to do so, but now it is time to re-evaluate where you are with overall health and safety. All your hard work must not be in vain!
Where do you start?
It’s probably safe to say that you did not achieve all you set out to do in 2020 and if you did, then I want to know your secret!
The best place to start is to review your priorities from last year. What did you achieve, what fell by the wayside, what new priorities came up that needed to be dealt with? Rewrite your priorities and give yourself grace on the items on the list that were not achieved, 2020 was not a normal year! The list does not have to be all consuming, keep it simple and to the point and it will be easier to follow and easier for everyone else involved.
There are few common mistakes that companies make when they are creating their annual health and safety plan:
- Doing the same thing and expecting better results
- Trying to take on too much at once
- Not involving key players
Einstein reminded us that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If it’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s to be able to pivot and react differently to current circumstances.
Overestimating the ability of an organisation to improve is also unrealistic. Setting up projects that exceed the scope of an organisation will ensure they fail before they even begin.
Without a strategy, none of the company’s health and safety priorities will be accomplished.
Do not be fooled into thinking that by setting up a goal for improving lagging indicators is a strategy. It’s not. A strategy is a plan that will make your goals a reality.
Even companies who do have a strategy in place often have it overloaded or have an unrealistic timeline. Trying to overachieve in just one year is a formula for failure. Good health and safety strategies target specific and limited improvements, whilst involving the whole organisation.
Here are some basic steps on how to build a health and safety strategic plan:
- Identify specific issues (priority list)
- Clarify roles
- Create a planning committee
Identify the information that needs to be collected to help make decisions
Leadership and Responsibility
No plan will succeed without strong leadership. This leadership begins with but does not end with the health and safety manager. All managers must be aligned with the health and safety priorities and be active in their pursuit. This is turn will filter to all employees and result in better success for the overall goal for health and safety on site.
After the year that was 2020, it is possible that responsibilities feel disjointed. Just like in so many other aspects of our lives right now, we feel less connected, this is no different when it comes to the area of health and safety. Many employees are still working remotely or if they are working, they are not meeting up as usual or on different time schedules. So, it may take more effort to promote the company’s health and safety priorities, but they are worth the effort.
I’m sure you are weary of hearing it, but these are challenging times and I know one thing for sure, they are not worth losing years of hard work for. I know what it takes to bring a company up to good health and safety standards and I know how quickly they can regress if the focus and attention are taken away from them. Don’t let all your hard work in the area of health and safety be in vain, take back the reigns and stay on course.