The function of health and safety in an organisation must be indicated by senior management within the statement of the organisation’s general policy towards health and safety, as required under 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). However, the most general indication of the need for a health and safety function within an organisation is given by the general duty of an employer towards their employees under 2(1) of the HSWA.
“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of his employees.”
Also relevant is the general duty of an employer to others affected by his or her undertaking, as given by 3 of the HSWA. However, these duties are general and so there is little indication in the Act of how these duties are to be carried out, except that their detail must be contained within the organisation and arrangements sections of the health and safety policy document required.
To obtain the greater detail necessary to effectively carry out the general duties of the HSWA, it is necessary to use the information given by the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). The requirements for effective management of health and safety are contained in all the MHSWR, but the most significant for the effective function of health and safety is the requirement for the appointment of a “competent person” to render advice and assistance.
In general, all business decisions are based on financial judgments. These judgments are seen as core to the business and this advice is delivered at board level.
However, significant financial and business loss to an organisation can occur if health and safety risks are not managed correctly. The cost of poorly managed safety will be a significant drain on financial (and other) resources of an organisation. It should never be forgotten that a safety incident can create damaging publicity that will impact on a company’s market share or status in the wider community. These risks can be significantly mitigated, as with other business aspects, by the effective use of the competent person required to be appointed to render health and safety assistance.
If a true cost: benefit analysis of the effects to an organisation of an ineffective health and safety function is made, it is most often the case that the benefits outweigh the costs, making the provision of a health and safety function an economically reasonable business decision. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures estimate the cost to industry for lost time due to accidents and ill health to be close to £13.5 billion (in 2010/2011).
A failure in health and safety within an organisation will result in pain, injury or loss to an employee or person affected by the work of the organisation. It would be rare for an organisation to take a corporate view that this pain and suffering was a necessary part of their business. There is an overlap between legal, economic and moral aspects, as they all seek to protect the workforce and other stakeholders from harm.
An effective health and safety management system should carefully consider the long-term health effects that its employees may be subjected to in the course of their employment. These typically include:
- exposure to hazardous substances that can cause asthma or dermatitis
- exposure to noise that can damage hearing
- exposure to vibrating equipment that can cause damage to the nervous and digestive system
- repetitive actions that can damage the nervous system, ligaments and tendons
- back injuries caused by poor posture or bad handling techniques.
The audit has to be a specific audit for each client and their actual activities and is part of the onsite consultancy service. The audit should be carried out against the Clauses in the Standard itself and associated guidance
For example the Clauses in 18001 include:
- H&S Policy
- Planning (Hazard identification, risk assessments and controls, legal requirements, objectives),
- Implementation and operation (resources, roles, responsibility, accountability and authority, Competence, training and awareness Communication, participation and consultation),
- Documentation and documentation control including operational control § Emergency preparedness and response
- Checking (Performance measurement and monitoring, Evaluation of compliance, Incident investigation, nonconformity, corrective action and preventive action, control of records, internal audits, and management review)
If you need advice on obtaining 18001 or any other accreditation, please contact Walker Health and Safety Services 0845 834 0400.