Health, Safety, and Good Business. OHSAS 18001 and How to Avoid Litigation
I take a very realistic approach to Health and Safety, as covered by the standard OHSAS 18001. Now, every era has it’s bogey men (and women). Witches in the middle ages, communists in 1950s America, Soviet spies in the English establishment. And in the 21st century, we have The Safety Officer, caricatured as a vaguely irritating, shadowy presence with a large file of procedures and a humourless, merciless, impractical approach to life and business.
Yet, in our current compensation culture, the safety officer is the first line of defence against an assault from the “no-win, no-fee” sub-species of the legal profession. So, why do such safetypersons often remain isolated from core management teams, seen as the mad cousin in the attic from a Victorian Horror Novel?
The truth is that most businesses leaders genuinely have bigger problems to think about than trip hazards and manual handling . Safety, including OHSAS 18001, does not matter as it generates no revenue, only costs, rules, and irritation. Until…
Well yes, until the windows are cleaned by staff standing on a rickety office chairs, those contractors installing cables leave a man-hole open, or the newly-pregnant lady you sent downstairs to fetch another box of paper trips on the stairs. Health and safety only seems to be taken seriously when it’s too late. OHSAS 18001 is a working standard, not a procedural sticking plaster…
So, how do we get safe working habits into the unspectacular, common-sense mainstream? Why not a low level, systematic agreed way of doing things which reduces risks and ensures that special and risky situations, such as outside contractors and unskilled office cleaning staff, are managed effectively and safely ? Not a lone man with a clipboard and attitude, isolated and despised, but a shared and valued company understanding that this stuff actually matters? And yes, I have actually seen this happen.
OHSAS 18001 is an internationally recognised standard which establishes such a system. It encourages building simple risk assessments and safe practices into everyday working life until they become the accepted, agreed “way we do things”.OHSAS 18001 establishes a systematic, shared approach to Health and Safety Management, assisting with good communication, making sure that the management of a company know what risks they are responsible for before that compensation lawyer arrives with a massive claim, or an invitation comes to explain your “unique entrepreneurial management style” and “pressures of multi-tasking” in a court of law.
If you sincerely feel that you have all your risks covered, then you have my admiration. But, if visiting your employee, cheque in hand, while they are in hospital, doesn’t appeal, then I’d recommend looking at what OHSAS 18001 and a systematic, common-sense practical process of logical risk reduction can do for you.
It might also help you win a few more tenders too, as certification against OHSAS 18001 is becoming mandatory when dealing with large organisations. Simply, if you don’t have OHSAS 18001, you’re instantly excluded from bidding.
I began my working life in a Nottingham workshop in 1976 when attitudes to safety procedure were somewhat different. Hence, as you might have detected, I take a ruthlessly realistic, practical approach to this topic, knowing that only that which is workable will ever actually work with the people who do the work. And that safety is more than yellow signs and posters with slogans.
So, if you feel you may be even slightly exposed to risks, even the hazard of compensation culture, and still wonder if OHSAS 18001 is really worth it, please drop us a line .
Written by Colin Brown of ISO Consultants