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Thursday, 14 November

Safety Focus Equals Better FM

Providing a safe and healthy environment for employees is an important part of facilities management, yet the term health and safety is often treated with apathy, writes George Parish.

FM providers typically see health and safety as a legislative and compliance issue, something to be ticked off and separate from day to day service delivery.

Safety should be an integral part of what organisations do – a habit not a programme – and an essential aspect of FM service delivery.

So how can we encourage FM managers to see that health and safety is more than a set of rules to comply with and not a burden that gets in the way of doing the job?

 

Ownership

The way organisations manage health and safety influences behaviour. Compliance is, of course, important but giving staff ownership and focusing on behaviour change, attitude and motivation will help create a strong operational safety culture. 

Ensuring legal compliance is clearly essential but can become a prime focus for an organisation. However, if this is the main driver, staff may interpret this negatively. By ensuring compliance is integral to operational processes, and that the message to staff is predominantly about their own and others’ safety and the everyday aspects of service delivery, safety can however become a standard part of what organisations do.

In the same way that we look to see if a vehicle is coming when we cross the road, safety is simply a part of conducting yourself in an appropriate manner. It’s about quality, wellbeing, productivity and, most importantly, getting people home safely every day. A culture of safety can be encouraged by giving staff ownership and by showing that it’s everybody’s responsibility to look after each other and not the responsibility of a health and safety department.

 

Lose the blame culture

When accidents happen it is easy to allocate blame. Organisations that place emphasis on identifying fault won’t encourage openness. If people think they might be blamed if something goes wrong, incidents can go unreported. Businesses need to have in place measures to control risks but they can’t address safety issues if they don’t know what they are. We can all learn from mistakes, and identifying problems will help companies understand what caused them and what sort of changes are needed to address them. Improvements should be made from incidents, and outcomes shared throughout the organisation.

Only if someone has been reckless should blame be assigned. Malicious or purposefully harmful behaviour must not be accepted and individuals should be held responsible for their actions within the context of the circumstances in which they occurred.

 

Empower

Employees are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace but a report, ‘The Invisible Workforce: Employment Practices in the Cleaning Sector’ published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, found that many workers were not aware of how to raise concerns. In some cases they feared losing their job if they complained. All facility services staff should be supported and have the confidence to identify and report potential hazards, dangerous occurrences or near misses on client sites to prevent accidents happening.

 

Engage

Safety won’t sell itself. Just telling people they have to do things a certain way is not going to encourage behaviour change. You need to ensure messages grab your teams’ attention and give them something to think about. For example, risk assessments can be incorporated into staff induction packs and day-to-day processes. Health and safety training can be made more accessible through, for example, short YouTube videos or role play exercises. When you provide training, ask your employees for feedback to make sure it’s relevant and effective.

 

Partnership with clients

Clients have a responsibility to make sure their sites are safe for all users. Joint health and safety assessments with clients and their FM partners can help in clearly defining each other’s responsibilities, as well as understanding the consequences of each other’s activities, while allowing FM partners to attend client health and safety meetings can help their understanding of client procedures.

FM teams can contribute to the safety of their customers’ premises by reporting any risks such as trailing extension leads or loose paving, which might cause an accident. Encourage staff to conduct hazard spotting in the workplace – the client may not be aware there is an issue and will welcome proactivity in helping to reduce accidents.

 

Measure performance and evaluate impacts

Ensure that systems are in place to report and measure safety performance. Review reports at regular intervals and question results and ensure that action is planned to tackle poor performance. As a result of encouraging staff behaviour change in relation to health and safety, my organisation has seen accident rates drop by 36% over a couple of years, which has led to a subsequent drop in insurance claims.

 

Champion safety

Health and safety doesn’t have to be complicated or a burden. There is a far stronger correlation between worker involvement in safety and incidence rates than there is between compliance and incidence rates. By changing attitudes and behaviours, companies can achieve a vibrant health and safety culture and a safer working environment.

By George Parish, Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Director, at Grosvenor Services 

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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