News & Views

Is safety on your boardroom table (or in your Manager’s bottom drawer…)

BY Steve Ashton
Health & Safety
BG Orange

Two very large fines were endorsed in the appeal court in January apparently in an attempt to drive home that Health and Safety needs to be on Board tables as well as Managers’ desks.

[R v Sellafield Limited (£700,000), R V Network Rail Infrastructure £500,000].  The judges commented that “A fine of the size imposed would provide a real incentive to the directors and shareholders to remedy the failures which the judge found existed." 

How important are health and safety in most businesses?  We have found that Board (Charity, School or Committee) level meetings and reports routinely address time, cost and quality issues. It should come as no surprise then to find that managers often perceive that these issues are important to the business (but safety isn’t…).

The Health and Safety policy may set aspirational values for health and safety performance, and there may be a well-developed management system to back it up.  But there is (all too often) a shortage of any evidence of any real commitment.  Where the policy says the Chief Exec will do all things the law tells the business to do – but the Directors (Governors, Trustees, Councillors) never ask for evidence that he is doing those things – then how important is H&S – really - for that business?

The behaviour of those at the top - Directors, Governors, Trustees, Councillors - sets the tone for the whole organisation.   If they do not give a positive lead then any serious accidents could be laid on their own doorstep.  Four Directors have recently been jailed for their role in health and safety offences. 

Speak to your Health and Safety Manager about any concerns you have or to arrange training your Board might need…

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