1 Jan 1970

Safety is best led from the top

The case studies demonstrate the vital role that director leadership has to play in health and safety. Ten new case studies have been compiled, drawn from private companies and public bodies across the oil and petrochemical, printing, construction, health services, local authority and prison sectors. They serve to highlight the benefits that director leadership brings both to the health and safety of the employees and to the business.

The director leadership case studies build on the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC's) guidance 'Directors' responsibilities for Health and Safety' (INDG343), published in 2001, and the business benefits case studies published by the HSC/E in 2004.

Five key action points are recommended within the Directors' Guidance, which can be summarised as follows:

  • The board needs to accept its collective role in providing health and safety leadership.
  • Each board member needs to accept their individual role in providing health and safety leadership.
  • The board needs to ensure that its decisions reflect its health and safety intentions as per its health and safety policy statement.
  • The board needs to recognise its role in engaging the active participation of workers in improving health and safety.
  • The board needs to ensure that it is kept informed of, and alert to, relevant health and safety risk management issues. Following on from this last point, the HSC recommends that boards appoint a health and safety director.

While the HSE's evidence shows a high degree of awareness of the HSC guidance among directors, around one-third of organisations do not have board-level arrangements in place for directing health and safety, and one-in-six organisations have boards that do not provide direction or take responsibility and, most worryingly, have no plans to do so. The HSC/E therefore undertook to build on the guidance by providing accessible and persuasive 'best practice' case studies that bring home the benefits of director leadership. A first set of such case studies was published by the HSE earlier in 2005.

Some of the points raised in the new case studies include the way in which management and unions can work together with shared goals, leading to improved industrial relations and, in BP, for example, line managers are incentivised by formal health and safety performance targets that can affect their salaries and bonuses. Leadership from the top of an organisation also enables the culture to change from being reactive to proactive. Instead of just acting after incidents, safety risks can be better managed through the provision of timely and sufficient resources. Leo Quinn, CEO of De La Rue plc, comments: "Health and safety is an integral part of running a safe, productive company; you can't afford not to take it seriously. If it is built in effectively, the benefits far outweigh the cost of any front-end investment."

This same company has also made accident statistics one of its six main business KPIs (key performance indicators). As a result of the board-level leadership on health and safety matters, De La Rue has seen a 65 per cent reduction in days lost through accidents since 2002, independent health and safety audits have revealed a reduced corporate risk, and insurance premiums have increased by less than the market average over the last three years.

Clearly there are business benefits to be gained from properly managing health and safety, but best practice is for the leadership to come from the very top - which means directors of small or medium-sized enterprises, or main board members in large companies.

All of the newly published case studies are available via the HSE's website. In addition, the 'downloads' menu on this page provides access to a variety of other useful information relating to corporate responsibility, including the business benefits case studies.


Pilz Automation Ltd
Pilz House, Little Colliers Field
Corby, Northants, NN18 8TJ
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 1536 460766
E-Mail: sales@pilz.co.uk

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Telephone: +44 1536 460766
E-Mail: marketing@pilz.co.uk

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