When Quality is Better than Quantity in Health and Safety

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety Case StudiesLeave a Comment

Health and Safety Case Study - Finning

One of the dangers that companies face when trying to improve health and safety is going overboard on procedures and paperwork. This is often a fine line, but if you fall on the wrong side of it the impact can be significant.

This is what the UK branch of Finning discovered. Finning is a distributor of plant manufactured by Caterpillar. It is an international company with a significant operation in the UK.

Many of its employees are based in the field. Usually, this means they work in high-risk locations such as construction sites, mines, offshore rigs, quarries, and landfill sites.

They work in these high-risk environments with minimal supervision, so their active involvement in adhering to health and safety policies is essential. If the employees in the field don’t support or buy into the policies, standards can quickly slip and accidents occur.

Too Much Paperwork

Finning spotted this potential problem before health and safety standards started to fall. It did this through a survey of employee opinion. Finning conducts this survey annually and, initially, the overall feedback on safety issues was positive. However, there were lots of complaints and negative feelings towards the amount of paperwork involved. Something had to be done to change this.

Consultative Approach

Finning started by consulting with employees at all levels to find out where it was going wrong and how it could do things better in relation to health and safety, including the management of risk.

One of the first things the company was able to achieve as a result of this consultation was a simplification of its health and safety procedures and paperwork. This helped improve levels of employee support while also encouraging participation.

For example, prior to the employee survey and consultation, Finning had over 200 risk assessments (some so long they weren’t being read). Following the consultation, it was able to consolidate this to just 20.

The approach to achieving this consolidation, however, was crucial to its success. Specifically, it wasn’t achieved by management or the health and safety team. Instead, the employees directly affected by the risks on a daily basis led the consolidation effort. They, after all, were best placed to know what was required.

They also knew where there was repetition and unnecessary documentation.

Continuous Improvement

While the simplification of its health and safety policies and procedures was essential, Finning didn’t just do one consultation with employees.

Instead, it has continued to involve employees at all levels in identifying issues with health and safety, developing solutions, and then implementing those solutions. This has resulted in several positive initiatives that have improved safety and have had a measurable impact on the level of accidents.

In fact, the simplification of the company’s approach to health and safety and the initial initiatives it introduced following the first stage of consultations immediately resulted in a 33% reduction in recordable injuries.

In addition, Finning also achieved national recognition for its efforts when it won the Sir George Earle Trophy, the highest accolade offered by RoSPA.

The company proves that good quality health and safety procedures that tackle the real issues are much better than procedures that do lots of things for the sake of doing lots of things.

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