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Active and reactive monitoring of your Health & Safety policies and processes

Checking typically falls into 'active' or 'reactive’ - proactive checks you make to prevent harm and minimise risk, and the process you adopt to investigate an incident or near miss.

Managing risks in your organisation is a vital, which means ‘checking’ needs to be built into your processes. This involves setting up an effective monitoring system, backed up with sensible performance measures.

6 - Measuring performance

Monitoring and reporting are important parts of health and safety arrangements. Management systems allow organisations to receive both specific (eg incident-led) and routine reports on the performance of health and safety policy.

  • Measuring performance
  • Make sure that your plans have been implemented – ‘paperwork’ on its own is not a good performance measure.
  • Assess how well the risks are being controlled and if you are achieving your aims. In some circumstances formal audits may be useful.
  • Investigating accidents and incidents
  • Investigate the causes of accidents, incidents or near misses.

Checking that you are managing risks in your organisation is a vital, sometimes overlooked step. It will give you the confidence that you are doing enough to keep on top of health and safety and maybe show you how you could do things better in the future. Checking involves setting up an effective monitoring system, backed up with sensible performance measures. Investigating and analysing incidents will also make a big contribution to understanding health and safety in your business.

You need to be sure that your monitoring adds value and isn’t just a tick-box exercise.

Good-quality monitoring will not just identify problems but will help you understand what caused them and what sort of changes are needed to address them. Poor monitoring might tell you that something is wrong but may not help you understand why, or what to do about it.

There are many different types of monitoring but they can generally be categorised as either ‘active’ or ‘reactive’:

  • Active methods monitor the design, development, installation and operation of management arrangements. These tend to be preventive in nature, for example:
  • routine inspections of premises, plant and equipment by staff;
  • health surveillance to prevent harm to health;
  • planned function check regimes for key pieces of plant.
  • Reactive methods monitor evidence of poor health and safety practice but can also identify better practices that may be transferred to other parts of a business, for example:
  • investigating accidents and incidents (see pages 51–3);
  • monitoring cases of ill health and sickness absence records.

Selecting the right measures to use is the critical step. Using the wrong measures will cause a lot of unnecessary and unproductive effort, with little benefit to your organisation.

7 - Investigating accidents and incidents

In any business or organisation things don’t always go to plan. You need to prepare to deal with unexpected events in order to reduce their consequences. Workers and managers will be more competent in dealing with the effects of an accident or emergency if you have effective plans in place that are regularly tested. You should monitor and review any measures you have put in place to help control risk and prevent accidents and incidents from happening. Findings from your investigations can form the basis of action to prevent the accident or incident from happening again and to improve your overall risk management. This will also point to areas of your risk assessments that need to be reviewed.

An effective investigation requires a methodical, structured approach to information gathering, collation and analysis.

Why investigate?

  • Health and safety investigations form an essential part of the monitoring process that you are required to carry out. Incidents, including near misses, can tell you a lot about how things actually are in reality.
  • Investigating your accidents and reported cases of occupational ill health will help you uncover and correct any breaches in health and safety legal compliance you may have been unaware of.
  • The fact that you thoroughly investigated an incident and took remedial action to prevent further occurrences would help demonstrate to a court that your company has a positive attitude to health and safety.
  • Your investigation findings will also provide essential information for your insurers in the event of a claim. An investigation can help you identify why the existing risk control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are needed. It can:
  • provide a true snapshot of what really happens and how work is really done (workers may find short cuts to make their work easier or quicker and may ignore rules – you need to be aware of this);
  • improve the management of risk in the future;
  • help other parts of your organisation learn;
  • demonstrate your commitment to effective health and safety and improving employee morale and thinking towards health and safety.

Investigating near misses and undesired circumstances, where no one has been harmed, is as useful as, and may be easier than, investigating accidents.

In workplaces where a trade union is recognised, appointed health and safety representatives have the right to:

  • investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences in the workplace;
  • examine causes of workplace accidents.

All employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises have duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

They must report certain work-related injuries, cases of ill health and dangerous occurrences. RIDDOR applies to all work activities but not all incidents are reportable.

Reporting incidents should not stop employers undertaking their own investigation to ensure risks are controlled effectively.

4 Steps to continuously improving Health & Safety in your business

  1. Planning your Businesses Health & Safety
  2. Doing, designing safe practices into different job roles and business functions
  3. Checking, active and reactive monitoring
  4. Acting, lessons learned, feedback and continuously improving your Health & Safety Policy

Why people choose RISK for their Health & Safety training providers

RISK trainers are active Health & Safety consultants, this means they fully understand what it’s like to work in a manufacturing or construction environment. They have experienced the issues and challenges you face in your business and can help you develop robust implementation processes as well as provide the knowledge to pass the relevant qualification for your job role.

The information contained within this article is sourced from HSE Book, Managing for Health and Safety (HSG65) which can be downloaded here.

This information is relevant to NEBOSH courses and the CITB SMSTS and SSSTS courses