How a health and safety management system can benefit your business

Friday September 24, 2021

A health and safety management system is a formal framework for creating and implementing health and safety measures. It is a proven method of reducing risk, maintaining a culture of safety and improving productivity. When used correctly, it can help to ensure that health and safety standards are consistent across your entire business.

So does your business need a health and safety management system?

At a time when we all value optimal health, organisations of all sizes and industry sectors are now benefitting from implementing management systems as a framework for improving their health and safety performance. Occupational health and safety is integral to the overall success of any organisation.

How will a management system benefit my company?

Organisations have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety. Management systems give you a framework to do this effectively in a way that you can tailor to your own organisational circumstances.

You only have to glance at recent Health and Safety Executive prosecutions to see just how far things can go wrong when companies which should have a robust health and safety framework in place fall short.

In one recent case, a property development company was fined £23,000 for breaching multiple regulations. A series of inspections found working from height violations, employees sleeping on site and a failure to meet electrical safety standards.

In another case, a food processing company was fined £300,000 for exposing employees to a harmful substance. The company had purchased a new machine for processing potatoes, but the installation had been poorly planned. When the machine began to give off fumes, the company attempted to fix the problem itself. As a result, a maintenance engineer was exposed to dangerous levels of sulphur dioxide.

A management system could have helped in both of these examples. By creating a formal framework for health and safety, you can foster a more fastidious culture. This makes it less likely that standards will slip over time.

The benefits of a management system

Whilst developing a management system you should consult with your employees or their representatives, including trade unions where they are recognised. When you successfully create this more structured approach, a management system has many benefits:

  • It ensures that you are compliant with the laws of your industry, saving you the expense and embarrassment of a prosecution
  • It helps you to attract new employees by demonstrating your commitment to safety
  • It shows existing employees that you care about their well-being
  • It provides peace of mind to company stakeholders
  • It helps you to spot risks that you had previously missed, resulting in a reduction in accidents and occupational ill health
  • It saves you money by lowering insurance premiums, reducing sick days and improving staff retention rates

Which management system is right for me?

There are two main frameworks that UK companies can use to create a health and safety management system.

HSG 65 (also known as Managing for Health and Safety) – This is a detailed guidebook published by the HSE. It encourages businesses to build a management system based on a four-step approach: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The move towards Plan, Do, Check, Act achieves a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management. It also treats health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a stand-alone system.

HSG 65 is a great starting point but it does have one major drawback: it has no legal status. This means that it can’t be used to prove that safety standards are being met. This probably won’t be a problem for smaller companies, but larger businesses may have stakeholders who demand official certification. This is where ISO45001 comes in.

ISO45001 – This is an internationally recognised standard for workplace health and safety. It is not a management system, but rather a set of criteria that a management system should meet. These include taking a structured approach to risk reduction and setting measurable goals for success

In order to receive certification, you must be audited by an accredited external body. It’s worth noting that the requirements of ISO45001 go beyond those of UK law, so you should think carefully about whether it’s the right choice for your business. The HSE will continue to inspect companies according to its own standards, regardless of whether they are ISO45001-certified.

We’re here to help

Whether you want to improve your current management system or create a new one from scratch, it never hurts to get some help. We can cast an expert eye over your existing system and spot any weaknesses you may have missed. Or, if you prefer, we can work with you to create a brand-new system that is tailor-made to your business. Contact your local Health & Safety Dept to get started.

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