AN OPEN LETTER TO YOUR COMPANY DIRECTOR

documents

Dear Company Director,

Are you confident you won’t be charged for Corporate Manslaughter? No? Let me talk you through this now so we don’t have to look back at this as something you should have done!

Corporate Manslaughter & Corporate Homicide

For over a decade Company Directors and Owners have been under threat of personal prosecution and even to be sentenced to jail should they fail in their duty of care to those working under them.  Although the Act itself is not part of the Health and Safety legislation it stands by it, complimenting it and incentivising those at the top of the chain to make sure they do what they are supposed to be doing as they can no longer hide behind a company and will be found responsible should an avoidable accident happen under their management.  In the near 11 years that the Act has been in force, just 25 cases have been successfully prosecuted but at an average of 2 a year in that time, the threat is still ever-present to those managing staff in high-risk roles and often those that aren’t.

 

How should you protect yourself?

The easiest way to protect yourself, and more importantly, protect your staff, is to ensure you have a fully compliant Health and Safety system in place.  If you’re Health and Safety is tip top then it is very unlikely that you are going to have a fatality in the work place and if the unthinkable should happen, you will have the small reassurance of knowing that you did absolutely everything you could have done to prevent such events as you come to terms with the tragedy.

 

Is it really necessary?

Yes, it is.  That is my short answer.  I can say that confidently because one of my newest hobbies is looking up failures of the above and seeing the consequences it pushes onto all around the incident in question. That’s not just you Mr/Ms/Mrs Director, it’s him, Joe Bloggs at the bottom of operations, his wife Jane Bloggs and their three children.  It’s the company name tarnished in a media frenzy and the company bank account emptied in costs and fines.  It’s the members of the public who saw it happen, the colleagues that tried to warn him or didn’t know they had to tell him.  It’ll affect your ability to loan money for the business, it’ll affect your income directly as you deal with the black mark on your record, it’ll push up insurance premiums and probably use up a considerable amount of staff time whilst you support investigation.  What about the Director’s significant other and their children?  They lose out on quality time or are poorly affected by the side effects of stress at work and the probable lack of sleep.

 

What does a fully compliant Health & Safety system look like?

A fully compliant system is seen by everyone.  Every task which your staff undertake must have had a relevant and current Risk Assessment completed for it and had a ‘best practice’ safe system of work or method statement written in accordance with this.  The Risk Assessments and Method Statements, often referred to as RAMS, then need to be seen and acknowledged by the staff on the front line for these tasks and should be signed by them at agreed intervals (often for high risk, less often for low risk) to ensure they are aware of all the risks involved for each task and how to mitigate them.  Staff should be able to access information on who to contact with queries or issues and they should have been given all training which is identified as being required in the Risk Assessment for every task they undertake, regardless of whether they do that task daily or bi-annually.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the process completed when a person or people sit down and think through a task, pointing out hazards which could be dangerous or harmful to people or assets within the company, they then look at how they can reasonably mitigate the risk by adding in controls. For example, if cold weather conditions are the risk type, with ice as the hazard, the control would be grit but obviously some risk assessments cannot be encapsulated in one word and a lot more detail is required.

 

Challenges Faced by Directors

Often, company directors simply do not have the correct Health and Safety knowledge to practise safely. They base their requirements on previous experience and unless they are in the business of H&S they simply just don’t realise what obligations they have as an employer to their staff. This can sometimes be due to slow business growth, so often a company don’t realise that the expectations and responsibilities shoot up when the company has 5 or more employees and it isn’t until much later when they think about H&S. Often in a disjointed way or in a way that perhaps isn’t even compliant, the others either have some H&S exposure already or buy in an expert to run their H&S for them.

Would You Like CRAMS with that?

What we are finding is our demographic is company directors, just like you. Now these are people who are competent and confident doing what they do best and as such they have taken the time out to not just learn the Health and Safety laws and what that means to them but also to understand them and as a result, they have some very complex compliance documents in circulation. But the problem lies right there – circulation. To circulate information to all staff is quite close to impossible – I don’t know what it is about being safe that employees hate, but there is something – give them a bunch of stuff to keep them safe and they will hide from it like a teenager from a bright 6am start.
I have seen staff members literally flinch at the word ‘training’ or ‘refresher course’ which of course is absolutely barmy! However, I have also heard a story about people using CRAMS as a verb, “Oh, that looks dangerous, Lisa, have we CRAMSed it?” or “How did your CRAMS go today” or in contrast, even like this: “Don’t worry, I can find it on CRAMS” I know that one is not an example of a verb, however, to have staff that are so self-assured of their own safety must be an incredible achievement for any manager, but what about that director at the top who knows he is doing everything he should do, needs to do and wants to do to keep his staff happy, healthy and safe and he also knows all of those things increase staff retention. I mean really, he is going to be one very smug Director isn’t he/she.

Fall
Why bother using software?  We already have excel?

It is true that you can create a compliant Health and Safety System in excel, I cringe as I admit it but I know it is true.  You just tap in all the data, save it somewhere public and ensure everyone else looks at it.  However, my career up to now has been in IT support and system administration, I have seen what the audit logs look like on a Windows Server with regards to who is opening one document and when and I can promise you, without a shadow of a doubt, that within that log you will not find an entry which could stand up in court to protect you.  The logs are complex, and they log a lot of things you don’t need to see, they also are near impossible to search through due to the shear volume of them.  If you do find the relevant log at the right time, the next question would be – how were you keeping track before we asked for evidence and if at that point you don’t have an answer, it doesn’t matter whether you have a risk assessment library which is more complex than Vasiliev’s theory but without proof that you ensured your staff had sight of it, you’re looking at holding your hand over the big book and potentially facing prosecution for the simplest of oversights.

 

How can CRAMS Help?

CRAMS is fully auditable, it forces staff to go into the relevant documents using a mixture of a simple traffic light system interface (red means action, amber means upcoming, green means all good) and using email notifications at set periods before a task is due.

This means your employees get told when there is something they need to do and the system nags them until they do it, also, you can see from your side who it is waiting on and you can even send them additional chasers if you feel its necessary.  Having this auditability is essential in this day and age if you want to cover yourself and ensure your staff are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  Ridiculously, without this, if you tell a staff member to read a document, and they don’t and you can’t audit that, then you are still liable for their mistakes.  It can’t be worth running operations without that safety chain and visibility.

 

Won’t it take lots of time and resources?

Well, ish.  It takes a bit of dedication and work to get things where they need to be, so we would need sight of your current system and access to your staff personal development record etc, however this should take as much if not less than the amount of time you (hopefully) spend renewing and reviewing your H&S System already and it will then reduce that tenfold in the years to come.  It’s really just false economy.

Use CRAMS now, it’s much cheaper and simpler than a non-compliance court case.

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