This informal CPD article on Safety in Numbers was provided by WritersInc, an organisation who specializes in technical writing, documentation and training services.
Recent safety numbers in the UK in the last year show:
- There have been 111 workplace deaths, and
- 92 members of the public died because of workplace activities.
Of these deaths, 80 were workers in the 16 – 59 age group, 29 workers died falling from a height, 38 died as a result of being struck by a moving vehicle or moving object, 15 died due to being trapped by something collapsing or overturning, and 11 were fatally injured through contact with moving machinery.
These statistics make sobering reading. It is not surprising though, that around 86% of workplace accidents occur in organisations within the construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and manufacturing industries. Many workers in these industries are involved in physical labour, and their work often includes higher risk activities, such as working at heights, using heavy machinery or engaging in excavation work.
Investing in effective health and safety systems
The toll of a workplace death on family, colleagues, friends is immeasurable and enduring. Investing in effective health and safety systems takes time and money. But research shows that this investment pays dividends. For example, companies that invest in health and safety report a significant reduction in lost time due to injuries, a reduction in sickness absences and a reduction in insurance liability premiums. Health and safety is an integral part of doing business. UK legislation requires employers to make sure their staff understand how risks are controlled and who is responsible for doing this. But how to do this effectively?
Most organisations, especially those in higher risk industries, have robust processes around identifying, assessing, and controlling hazards. Most organisations also invest in health and safety training, and many strive to foster a health and safety conscious culture in the workplace. However, health and safety processes must be underpinned by good documentation. Health and safety policy manuals and safety standards are often written using formal language targeted to management and auditors. Also audit standards and safety regulations often dictate the complexity and structure of the information, making it challenging for staff to work out what they need to do as individuals.
Effective standard operating procedures
To write effective standard operating procedures, it is vital to consider who is likely to be performing each task as these are the people that need to know exactly what to do and how to stay safe while working. Using plain English and simple vocabulary makes documents easier to understand, and to translate into other languages if needed. Diagrams, photographs and videos can be more effective that wordy explanations. Ensuring information is concise and well-organised will make it much easier to remember. These strategies are particularly important for labour forces that include workers for whom English is a second language, or workers who have poor reading skills.
It takes time and skill to write clear, concise, accessible information. But good documentation will make it much easier to implement, maintain and continually improve your organisation’s health and safety system. There is definitely safety in numbers, especially when your numbers show a reduction in lost time injuries and sickness absentee days.
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