Whether you're running a construction site, an advertising agency or a fashion business, every workplace contains hazards.
Mitigating these threats to staff safety should be a priority for leadership teams, not only because of the duty of care employers have towards their employees, but also for the sake of the business. Identifying and removing hazards is a key part of process improvement, helping businesses reduce waste and boost efficiency.
Here, we'll look at four top tips for minimising risk, and how you can apply them to your workplace to make it safer for everyone.
1. Understand the scope of your business
A business is a complex organism, one where a wide array of tasks are carried out simultaneously at a range of scales and complexities. With so much going on, it's easy for companies to go onto autopilot and operate without fully understanding and taking account for all the activities conducted by staff and contractors.
Businesses need to think about every part of their operation and the potential safety risks they bring.
When this happens, there's a greater chance that hazards will be overlooked and accidents will happen. Businesses need to actively think about every facet of their operation, from outside personnel coming into their space to the equipment they use and analyse how each process or system can impact safety.
2. Know your areas of control
When a tenant takes over a lease, they gain both full control and full responsibility for how the space is used.
Understanding the relationship between the business and the person leasing the space is key to knowing where your responsibilities lie when it comes to risk management. While some 'base building' issues will be dealt with by the owner, the majority of fit-out tasks come under the remit of the tenant.
A common example is when businesses engage contractors to carry out maintenance or fit-out tasks, for example an electrician wiring up new workspaces. In a situation like this, a business must:
- Ensure the contractor is working in a safe environment - Many companies don't fully understand the relationship they have with contractors. While the contractor is expected to take all precautions to operate safely, it's on the business to provide them with a safe environment to work in.
- Check the contractor is licenced - If you're engaging external personnel and bringing them into your space, you're obliged to check that they're licenced and aren't going to endanger your staff. What you might not know is that even if you use a third party to source contractors, you're still liable for verifying competencies.
- Alerting staff to risks - Staff should also be made aware of planned maintenance or fit-out work to allow them to take necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.
This comes back to knowing what's going on in your business and when. Without full oversight, it's impossible to determine who has accountability for the activities occurring in the tenancy space, and therefore who should be implementing mitigation actions and treatment plans.
3. Encourage a just culture
Historically, underreporting of safety issues has been a significant challenge across many sectors. This is mainly due to company cultures in which highlighting risks is seen as apportioning blame or indicating failure.
Underreporting of safety issues is a historic issue for many companies that needs to be tackled.
In reality, employee ownership of risk identification should be encouraged. Not only does this empower staff to take responsibility for themselves and their colleagues, it's also a simple route to improving systems and processes in the long-term. As the people most intimately involved with the day-to-day operations of the company, your people are your best resource for reviewing and providing feedback on efficiencies and where new approaches could or should be adopted.
However, a just culture won't spring up over night of its own accord. It has to come from the top - the way an executive behaves will permeate through the business at large. One part of this is having a leadership team that publicly acknowledges the importance of safety, takes its responsibilities seriously and calls out those who think differently.
The other ingredient is policy. Safety policies should not be static protocols that are set and forgot - they need to be dynamic, living documents that keep up-to-date with the latest organisational changes, reflecting the current risks faced by staff and providing clear steps for mitigating them.
4. Train and educate your workers
To unlock your staff's potential as the gatekeepers of safety in your organisation, you first need to provide them with training in what to look for.
The most fundamental aspect of this is risk management training - teaching employees how to identify workplace hazards and potential consequences for those in danger. This is about an outlook shift: instead of simply performing their duties, some of which they'll have carried out since day one in the company, staff should continually scrutinise how things are done and look for better alternatives.
Fortunately, there are lots of providers out there who can facilitate this sort of training, from short online workshops to more in-depth courses.
While you aren't responsible for training contractors who conduct work for your company, you should still be doing as much as you can to encourage safe behaviour on their part. In addition to providing them with the right tools and a safe working environment, and briefing them on any nuances of the task at hand, listen to feedback from these parties. Their thoughts and experiences will be of significant value, as contractors come into a workspace with fresh eyes, potentially picking up on hazards that have slipped under the radar.
For more information on the safety responsibilities of businesses leasing office spaces, or how you can encourage best practices in your business, get in touch with the team at Investa today.
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