Why is Health & Safety training so important?

Mitchell Winter, head of Practice at Winter & Company providing Health & Safety training comments on “Why is Health & Safety training so important?”

In my opinion the simple answer is, if you want something done properly, make sure the person is suitably trained as if they have no prior training nor experience how on earth are they going to get it right! And if they get it wrong, we have to ask what harm and or consequences may occur? Well the simple answer to the latter is quite simply, harm occurring to the employee (physical and or mental) together with physical damage to the property and business in loss of income and productivity.

The next consideration is again a simple one but often overlooked, being, fit the job to the person and not the person to the job, in other words make sure there is a compatibility factor and do take into account both attitude and aptitude. This is a of course a common sense approach, but you would be amazed as to how many Organisations get it wrong or overlook the need and indeed legal requirement for suitable and sufficient levels of Information, Instruction & Training.

Without wishing to be accused of being a bore, the requirement for suitable levels of Information, Instruction & Training permeate throughout the entire regime of Health & Safety legislation, starting with The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 all the way through to and including what we affectionately refer to as the “Six Pack” commencing with The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to name but a few.

So what exactly is Training?

One of the most common legal definitions of the term, concludes “The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. In addition to the basic training required, observers of the labor-market recognize [update] the need to continue training beyond initial qualifications: to maintain, upgrade and update skills throughout working life.

According to recent statistics, in excess of 200 people are killed each year in accidents at work and over one million people are injured. In addition and quite frighteningly it is further estimated that another two million suffer illnesses caused by, or made worse by, their work which in my opinion and too commonly is attributable to the absence of suitable levels of Information, Instruction & Training.

Ok I hear you say enough of the Law, give me some practical examples. OK fine by me, here we go:

Let’s take workstation safety as the first example. I assume you have a high proportion of Computer users at your place of work. Well in my opinion the first issue goes back to our days at school. Take the first lessons in Information, Communication & Technology affectionately known as ICT. The student is placed at the workstation, the teacher explains the infinite wisdom of software and hey presto we launch ourselves on the web, compose emails and start our homework using “word and excel”

But what is conspicuous by its absence is the absence of any Information, Instruction & Training in how to set up the workstation nor anything about suitable posture so as to avoid a Repetitive Strain Injury or Work related upper limb disorder all of which are covered in detail under The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

If we don’t know how to set up a workstation nor how to adopt suitable posture the most likely outcome is that full productivity will not be reached, hence not adding any value to the company and harm will occur most likely resulting in periodic absence from work and we all know what that costs, yes doubling up which in itself is harmful as the outcome is predictably going to be higher levels of fatigue and stress and a sharp reduction in staff morale.

So if we provide adequate levels of Information, Instruction & Training to the computer user we are doing all we can to prevent harm occurring, ensuring maximum productivity and adding value to the Organisation.

Job done, happy and safe employee and management assured of productivity.

Exactly the same principle applies to Manual Handling. Employers often say to me that Manual Handling is not undertaken at their place of work. Whilst I am sure that this is true of many Organisations I would say that this applies to the minority not the majority.

The problem to me seems to be the lack of understanding in matters of Manual Handling, after all the definition is quite simply the Transporting and Supporting of a Load using Bodily Force. So if you are involved in the lifting of stationary, furniture and of course IT equipment for example then you are definitely undertaking Manual Handling. This to is fully covered by The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) including the requirement for Information, Instruction & Training. The other problem is that many employers forget or just don’t think about Manual Handling Aids such as trolleys, post carts and scissor lifts, all of which are covered by the The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 which requires Information, Instruction & Training in the use of the most suitable type of lifting aid required as well as a defect reporting system and service/inspection schedules all of which are now a fundamental legal requirement.

Please do stay with me as lastly I would like to give you another very important example of where Information, Instruction & Training play an integral part in keeping your employees, visitors and contractors safe including protecting your accommodation/building and indeed the business itself.

Fire Safety!!! The problem with “fire” as well as “accidents” in general is that people consider that fires and accidents only happen to other people, well I am sorry to dispel the myth but they can happen to anyone, with substantially greater consequences where there is an absence of Information, Instruction & Training.

We have seen a revolution is fire safety in the last few years with the Introduction of The Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005 where in short responsibility has passed from the fire dept to the occupier and or controller of premises.

Putting aside the requirement for a fire risk Assessment, I will focus on the inherent requirement for Information, Instruction & Training in accordance with The Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005. Yes I can hear you muttering under your breath that you are aware of the requirements for weekly testing of your fire alarm and the need for practice fire evacuations every six months but this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As far as training is concerned, it is not just about what everyone should be made aware of if they were to discover a fire, what to do if they hear the alarm, but perhaps of greater importance understanding the science of fire.

Our training programmes include understanding for example how a fire door actually works. Having said this most employees are aware that a fire door will prevent the spread of fire but they do not necessarily know how the door actually works ( Do You?) and if left in the open position will be utterly useless in preventing the spread of fire and further will endanger the life of a fire fighter, which incidentally too is now a criminal offence.

OK I hear you say, who in their right mind would wedge open a fire door and increase the likelihood of fire and smoke spread? Well the answer is many employees and visitors do exactly this, for example a contractor delivering stationary or IT equipment will often wedge open a fire door (yes with a fire extinguisher) and thoughtfully forget to close it after the delivery. Information, Instruction & Training in accordance with The Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005 will enlighten the offender that not only are they causing a hazard but also committing a criminal act for which they may be personally held accountable for in a criminal court of law.

So in conclusion preventing accidents and ill health is in every ones best interests and providing adequate levels of Information, Instruction & Training is one of the best routes to not only conforming to and with legal requirements but to preventing harm occurring in the first place.

Here is a brief check-list to consider:

  1. Develop a positive health and safety culture, where safe and healthy working becomes second nature to everyone;
  2. Explore and discover if could manage health and safety more efficiently
  3. meet your legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees at work.
  4. Training will contribute towards making your employees competent in health and safety
  5. Training can help your business avoid the distress that accidents and ill health cause
  6. Can help you avoid the financial costs of accidents and occupational ill health. Don’t forget that your insurance doesn’t cover all these costs. Damaged products, lost production and demotivated staff can all result.
  7. New recruits need basic induction training into how to work safely, including arrangements for first aid, fire and evacuation;
  8. People changing jobs or taking on extra responsibilities need to know about any new health and safety implications
  9. Young employees are particularly vulnerable to accidents and you need to pay particular attention to their needs, so their training should be a priority. It is also important that new, inexperienced or young employees are adequately supervised;
  10. Some people’s skills may need updating by refresher training, usually every two years.

Here at Winter & Company we provide a comprehensive range of Health & Safety Training courses and programmes to suit everyone as follows:

Just visit our website www.health-safety.net or call us direct on 020 7353 4999 and speak to Eve Horgan in order to arrange your free Health & Safety check-up.