The Biggest Challenge With Health And Safety Inspections
What do you suppose is one of the biggest problems with health and safety inspections?
The biggest problem is not the operation or use of dangerous tools or machinery. It’s not the plant machinery, the saws, the blades, the knives and metal presses. It’s not the laser beams, circular saws or drills. It’s nothing to do with the day to day use of this sort of equipment at all. It’s when plans veer away from the day to day routine that’s the biggest problem.
You know how it is I’m sure. One day a machine gets blocked and needs sorting out, or a piece of machinery fails and so a backup piece of equipment that’s been in storage is wheeled out. It’s when the normal routine is changed that health and safety faces a huge challenge. It’s at precisely these times that the majority of injuries in the workplace occur.
Brewery Blockage Results In Serious Hand Injury
For example, a Dorset brewery was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs by Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court after one of the brewery’s workers lost two fingers.
The cause of the accident? A piece of machinery which had been in storage had been moved to a new location in the main building for employees to use, and that being older it was liable to clog up now and then.
Employees were expected to sort out the blockages themselves for the time being, and it was during this process that one worker lost two fingers. Reaching into the machine to clear the blockage his fingers were severed by the blades which were still moving, and which were unguarded.
The problem in so many workplaces is that health and safety inspections are carried out in a very blinkered way. Apparently wonderful and comprehensive health and safety reports, policies and documentation are beautifully printed and duplicated, bound and displayed, but they’re worth almost nothing in terms of actually offering employees safe working conditions.
Health And Safety Inspections Ignore ‘What If’ For ‘Now’
The reason is that these health and safety inspections have only looked at what’s going on NOW, what equipment is being used NOW and how it is being used NOW. These policies often overlook the ‘What If’ questions.
What if this piece of equipment failed and had to be replaced, what if the equipment developed a fault, what if there was a blockage, what if a member of staff was away and their role had to be taken on by someone else, what if there was a power cut.. and so on.
In fact there are a huge number of what if questions, and it’s these which need identifying and answering. Only when these questions have been addressed can employees be truly protected.
After all, most car accidents occur not when people are doing the ordinary day to day manoeuvres, but when something unexpected happens, such as a deer running out into the road, a tyre bursting, a car pulling out unexpectedly into their path, and so on.
With health and safety it’s important to focus not on the obvious and apparent risks, but to go much further than that, and consider the less obvious, the less likely, but the still possible. This is where more injuries and workplace accidents come from.
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