Health and Safety Consultancy Services for SMEs in Birmingham, West Midlands and beyond

The Biggest Challenge With Health And Safety Inspections
Posted by David Cant on July 9, 2013
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The Biggest Challenge With Health And Safety Inspections

Working safely with ear defenders and hard hat protectionWhat do you suppose is one of the biggest problems with health and safety?

The biggest problem is not in the everyday operation or use of tools or machinery, no matter how dangerous they may be. 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, for whatever reason, that health and safety faces a huge challenge, and it’s at precisely these times that the majority of injuries in the workplace occur.

Brewery Blockage Results In Serious Hand Injury

For example, just this week a Dorset brewery has been 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. At Veritas Consulting we’ve seen this happen time and time again. 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, because this is where more injuries and workplace accidents come from.

If you’d like to have a more thorough health and safety inspection carried out, or what to verify that your existing policies and procedures are comprehensive enough, call one of our health and safety advisors today on 0800 1488 677 and they’ll be happy to discuss your concerns and requirements with you.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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