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Written by
on 08 May 2019

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Most businesses have a responsible person tasked with ensuring health and safety standards are upheld on site. They will also draw up workplace risk assessments, confirm that employees understand how to apply those safeguards, and check that the rules are being followed.

Is that enough?

So with one person in charge of oversight, and individuals made responsible for their own activities, every angle is covered. Or is it? In the drive towards constantly improving health and safety standards, there is one other factor to consider.

Stop minding your own business

By adhering to risk assessments – and general common sense principles – employees should be able to keep themselves relatively safe. But they should also be actively encouraged to keep an eye on their colleagues too.

This is not to suggest that your business needs to build a network of snitches and informants to spot and report examples of poor practice to the principal contractor. But a quiet word from a colleague is often very effective in helping stop dangerous activities quickly.

This approach is particularly useful for businesses that are ‘gamifying’ health and safety. Raising standards across the team will help them score more points by avoiding accidents and incidents.

Blowing the whistle

In some rare cases, dangerous working practices have become an embedded part of normal operations. A quiet word with colleagues is unlikely to help improve matters – particularly if a bad practice is being sanctioned or encouraged by a team leader or middle manager.

In these cases employees must be empowered to whistleblow, raising concerns with a senior employee. You should also consider anonymous reporting to protect the whistleblower – they are trying to help protect colleagues and the company against accidents and potential prosecution after all.

It may be that anonymous reports are made to the responsible person, simply because they have a head-start in understanding the issues involved. But they too will need to be empowered to take swift action to stamp out dangerous activity immediately.

Keeping your eyes open at work

So to answer the question, “am I my brother’s keeper?”, the answer has to be yes. Employees who are alert to potential dangers are far less likely to be involved in an accident. And they are also better able to warn their colleagues of potential problems, helping to reduce accidents and drive up safety standards across the site.

To learn more about encouraging employees to be more proactively engaged with health and safety issues, and how to build a safe working culture, please get in touch.

Chartered health and safety consultant. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When he is not helping clients, David enjoys being a husband, dad, keeping fit, and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. You can get in touch on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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