The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has introduced new guidance for involving employees in managing workplace health and safety. In particular, the HSE says the guidance has been brought up-to-date to reflect the current diversity of working arrangements.
Chairing a recent conference in London, attended by employers from a variety of sectors, trade associations, professional organisations, trade unions and safety representatives, HSE Chair Judith Hackitt drew attention to evidence that organisations with good worker involvement achieve better health and safety. Furthermore, 90 per cent of employers and employees already agree that effective involvement is important.
Speaking at the same conference, Health and Safety Minister Lord McKenzie of Luton said: "Thirty years ago this month the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (1977) became law. For many people work places are safer, the number of serious but non-fatal injuries reportedly falling by 70 per cent, workplace deaths have fallen by 76 percent and an estimated 5000 deaths have been prevented." The HSE's provisional data for work-related fatal injuries in Great Britain revealed that 228 workers lost their lives as a result of accidents or incidents at work in 2007/08.
Lord McKenzie continued: "The key principles of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) were built upon consultation and engagement and are as relevant today as they were thirty years ago. I see two key tenets here, firstly the importance of leadership from the top of every organisation and secondly the real involvement of workers in managing health and safety. We are here today to promote and celebrate the latter. Worker involvement in health and safety is one of my priorities for this year. I see it as one of my tasks to take every opportunity to go out and meet with employers, workers and their health and safety representatives to understand the health and safety issues facing people at work and to promote worker involvement as widely as possible."
Judith Hackitt said: "The real substance of good worker involvement is trust, respect, co-operation and joint problem solving between employers and employees. This applies to all workplaces irrespective of size or any other factor. This guidance will help all organisations to decide how to implement a culture in their organisation which genuinely values employees’ contributions leading to higher commitment and productivity."
Two leaflets have been published, both of which are available as free downloads from the HSE's website. The first is Involving your workers in health and safety: A guide for small businesses (WEB35) and the second is Consulting employees on health and safety: A brief guide to the law (INDG322). There is also more information on worker involvement on the HSE website.
Employers large and small should note that that when machinery is involved in accidents it is often the case that a contributory factor is inadequate guarding and safety-related control systems, coupled with too much reliance on systems of work and individual operators. If employers are concerned about whether their machinery or work equipment is sufficiently safe, Pilz has consultants who can carry out plant assessments, as well as PUWER assessments, risk assessments and ESPE inspections on individual machines. Most importantly, advice can also be provided on what remedial action is necessary.
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