Posted on http://www.csg.co.uk/blog on May 21st 2019
As you probably know, we take our Health & Safety responsibilities very safely, here at CSG. Last April, we held our inaugural ‘Health & Safety Week’, something we’ve already planned to repeat this year. As part of our developing focus, we’ve decided to turn this very broad topic into four more clearly-defined categories: Safe Processes, Safe Equipment, Safe Environment and Safe People. Continuing the series, we’ll investigate what is covered by the Safe Environment element of our policy.
Ensuring safe conduct of large numbers of people in an area where lots of hazardous things happen every day is a demanding task. It’s an obligation in which everything has to happen correctly, all the time, to ensure success – conversely, only take a few transgressions can result in a serious incident. When the stakes are this high, even being almost perfect just isn’t good enough.
Much of the risks we manage can be mitigated by providing clarity about the ways we expect people to behave, in the guise of training and rules. As comprehensive and as sophisticated as they are, ultimately, they’ll always require each individual’s compliance to have the desired effect. What if, for whatever reason, those control measures are ignored or overlooked, even accidentally? What else can be done to convey vital information quickly and effectively?
One answer is to control our environment, all the areas in which we operate, to reinforce the requirements and principles, clearly and consistently, that underpin our Health & Safety policy. From ‘softer’ measures to achieve this control, like signage all to ‘harder’ measures like restricted access areas, essential safe practice can be governed by the organisation of the very place that requires it.
Sarah Taylor, CSG’s Compliance Manager describes the scale of the issue:
“This consideration is both complicated and made more necessary by the fact that we have such a wide variety of workplaces to cover, from offices to laboratories to workshops, as well as plant areas and the waste handling areas themselves. Each type of location will have its own hazards and procedures to ensure safe working where they exist.”
You might conclude that the challenge here is similar to safe road use – passing a driving test may give you the ability to drive on any road but it gives you little or no insight about the various hazards and limits that exist on every motorway, mountain pass or one-way system in the country. Only by a combination of your knowledge of the rules, together with a consistent approach to information of the requirements and restrictions specific to every area, can safe road use be assured. As a driver, you must learn the wide variety of road signs because you’re expected to obey them. In return, you can expect signage to be present at each and every location in which those rules apply. Similarly, physical features such as speed bumps and barriers can enforce restrictions beyond simply informing users of the rules.
In environments such as those which CSG operate, the process of restriction can go much further than public roads can. If you’re determined to ride a bicycle on the motorway, there’s nothing to physically stop you – the Police will soon find you and advise you that you have broken the law in doing so, but realistically, that system can only be run on a ‘first failure’ basis – with suitable deterrents. At our sites, considerations of public access don’t apply and, crucially, ‘first failure’ isn’t an option. This means that we can design our layouts and add manned checkpoints or doors operated by keycards in order to stop even those who may deliberately wish to ignore the restrictions.
As with other aspects of CSG’s Health & Safety policies, there is an unwillingness to confine the scope simply to that which is expected of us. We believe there should be expectations above and beyond the obvious and necessary. This year, there’s an emphasis on ways to replicate the safe working measures that employees can expect at CSG sites to be applied when they’re working off-site, as Sarah explains:
“On any given day, so many of our people will be working at locations not operated by CSG, and, of course, driving from one site to another. We’re keen to ensure that we look after the health and safety of these colleagues as much as any other.
“It’s less easy because, unlike at our own sites, we do not have ultimate control of the environments they will face – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to exercise our influence, where we can. We encourage any of our colleagues working off-site to report any concerns and ensure we raise them with the local operator, as encouragingly as possible. Generally, companies do try to avoid being thought as ‘unsafe’ so where measures are suggested, they tend to be addressed in good faith. We may only be able to influence rather than control but the value of influence is often under-rated. As with other areas of our Health & Safety practice, we find time and again that avoiding a culture of blame is a very important way to make a real difference.”
As in other areas, that word ‘culture’ appears – and seems to be key to success. We may all presume that only an iron grip of rule enforcement offers the surest way to achieve total compliance but there are softer benefits that a clearly-controlled environment can bring.
“It’s just another way to be clear with people, to make the point that this all stuff really matters – and that your adherence is vital to its success. We hold a log of unsafe acts in order to understand how each instance could have been avoided and to monitor improvements once we’ve addressed each issue and we consistently find it’s much easier to effect change when we can prove to people the need to ‘buy-in’ to what we’re trying to achieve. The more that people want to do that, the easier it is to ensure that everyone makes the right decisions.”