Making Decisions Today To Protect Our Future


Vicky Shah, sector lead for Bureau Veritas, assesses recent shifts in health and safety reporting – and considers some practical steps to help retail and hospitality businesses achieve safety excellence.

I was speaking to a senior health and safety representative for one of the UK’s biggest retailers recently about the challenges they face delivering H&S excellence – especially in what remains a difficult climate for retailers as they continue to face external challenges such as inflation.

Of all the insightful thoughts they offered, one thing in particular stood out for me; something which sums up everything we are trying to achieve in reducing risk and improving safety. "The decisions we make today will protect our future," they said.

For this particular brand, it was clear that customer and colleague safety is the number one priority. “We must continue to make the right, informed decisions as we invest in our estates and our assets. That means making the most of all available data. Data is king.”

Data analysis

Of course, health and safety isn’t the only industry which has been able to make the most of a seismic shift in big data in recent years. With access to more accurate, more up to date and more reliable data from a range of internal and external sources, H&S managers can evolve their own management systems and safety programmes to reflect the latest insights. And nowhere is this better demonstrated than through the most recent RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) figures.

For many years, organisations have been good a reporting near misses or major hazards, but thanks to a greater focus on delayed consequences and more stringent reporting requirements, we now have even greater visibility of the key focus areas affecting UK businesses.

Examining the figures

In the most recent RIDDOR figures, the most common risk profile injuries are listed as:

• Slips, trips and falls (24%)

• Materials/manual handling (17%)

• Falls from height (17%)

• Using hand power tools (11%)

But perhaps even more interesting are the figures for ‘delayed consequences’ – those conditions, ailments and injuries which can arise after the initial incident or exposure.

Lung diseases (4%), cancers (7%), skin diseases, deafness and others (9%) are all noted, but the most eyecatching figures relate to two areas which have become key focus areas for UK businesses in recent years; stress, depression or anxiety (15%) and muscoskeletal disorders (65%).

In total, an estimated 1.7 million working days are lost each year due to ill health according to HSE, but the figure is three times that for injury accidents.

Putting it into practice: Advice from the experts

How then, to return to my first point, can retail and hospitality businesses ensure they are making the right decisions today to protect their future?

I have many years’ experience working with large organisations to support their health and safety and I have learnt a lot along the way. In my opinion, the best way to achieve excellence is to:

• Ensure visible leadership within the organisations

• Create an open and transparent culture with two-way communication

• Set the right tone for safety excellence, with a joined up approach throughout the organisation

• Analyse near miss data

• Issue and manage contractors’ codes of conduct

• Define clear accountability for health and safety

• Ensure management systems and processes are fit for the future

• Focus on ethics, environmental impact and safety in supply chains to meet increasing consumer demand for CSR best practice

And how can all of this be achieved? I’ll leave you with some key practical steps that we would always recommend our clients follow:

• Take action when safety guidelines are breached

• Keep records up to date

• Support H&S colleagues and value their input

• Make sure senior management is involved and invested in H&S

• Invest in training for your teams and make sure 'competent persons' have the necessary understand, awareness and experience for the role

Find out more

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