Diverse, exciting and important – a day in the life of a H&S operative
Posted on August 31, 2022
Every day is different working in Health and Safety and very often there will be a daily challenge to face and surmount. Sounds tough? It isn’t, because each challenge we are presented with should lead us to say: “I’ve made a difference there, I’ve added value. I’m improved somebody’s lot.” As a consequence, it’s diverse, exciting and important.
That said a typical day could range from carrying out an inspection at a factory, construction site or office to writing safety and emergency procedures for one of our 180 clients. All days are different though because people and places are different.
All these things are our bread and butter and all are important. Places of work need to follow legislative compliance but when we visit a workplace it is always with a view to helping not judging; and that said, we find that there is no organisation that we visit that we can’t help.
This is simply about making sure that workers are being looked after and that if accidents happen they are not repeated. The trick is to do it in a way which matters and is relevant to each individual business. Health, safety and wellbeing is, after all, always about the person.
Although there are lots of things that can happen that are beyond our control, I still like to say as something of a rule of thumb: “If you’ve got the first aid box out, we’ve failed.” So, it’s what drives us every day.
There are companies out there who don’t look after their workers properly and if we don’t tackle this as a society we are just making a rod for own backs. It’s a massive boulder that we chip away at every day, because we can be up against some people who might think that some matter more than others.
Variety of intervention
Our work is about formalising robust procedures. Inspections can either be general tours of a workplace, sampling, inspections of specific areas or activities, surveys, general inspections of areas or activities and incident inspections. Findings are then reviewed together to identify the steps that are needed to ensure compliance with legislation. A collaborative approach is always better than a top down diktat.
Risk assessments and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessments are of paramount importance because they can prevent injury and even loss of life, either to workers or members of the public, while at the same time making a business more efficient and avoiding unnecessary costs. Ineffective assessments can cause a whole host of issues for business.
COSHH is a law which puts companies under an obligation to control substances which could pose a danger to people and which carry a number of obligations. Day-to-day, we at Courtley regularly conduct information searches on substances and keep up to date with any new information or guidelines. This includes looking for work processes that could create hazardous substances.
We develop safe working practices within business operations to limit or remove the risks associated with used substances, establish a robust system of recording and document control for safety files and provide ongoing monitoring of hazardous substances.
Likewise the identification of potential hazards in the workplace and assessment of the resultant risks is a very important part of health and safety management. It’s about creating a safer working environment for all. It’s about prevention and control.
The assessment is the starting point for developing a safe system of work. Not having appropriate and adequate written risk assessments which are regularly reviewed can result in unsafe working or even criminal and civil proceedings.
Companies are required to have a Safety and Emergency Procedure that is recorded and tested and we are experts in this – it’s why hardly a week goes by without one of the team carrying out such work. The procedure is of even greater importance when an emergency occurs which can have a wider impact. For example if a business’s operations mean that there is a possibility of a chemical spill, explosion, fire, flood, electrocution or poisoning. In the case of an emergency, people are more likely to respond in an appropriate manner if they have trained for a situation regularly. And they can only do that if they have a plan.
This leads to another area where our expertise can be called – accident investigations. Even in the most safety conscious organisations things can go awry, and the unexpected can occur. Investigating why an accident has happened and using the findings is vital to reduce the risk of it happening again. Day-to-day we also carry out Safety Management Audits which provide the assistance needed to undertake the management of the enormous financial, legal and moral responsibilities involved in running a business without loss.
CITB certified courses
And then of course we run a number of Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) certified courses, carrying out as many as 25 each year. At our HQ we have classrooms alongside a space where we create many different scenarios to take our delegates through everything from first aid to confined spaces training, from rope access to fire marshal training.
In short, what being a health and safety professional means every day is to help highlight methodically, the hazards, the likelihood of something bad occurring and the severity of the consequences of that, in order to provide a lightbulb moment for someone who knows their job well but has listened and learned and now understands it better. We provide the tools for that to happen.