The greatest challenge with health and safety management is to make sure that safety plans are effectively maintained over time.
This is an area of organisational performance where the costs of failure can prove fatal. In 2018/2019, 147 people lost their lives in workplace accidents, according to the latest HSE (Health and Safety Executive) figures.
Maintaining safety standards is particularly difficult when you are managing a mobile workforce with employees operating remotely and operating in a constantly changing environment.
This is why an effective safety plan needs to include practical measures to guard against the risk of standards dropping over time. This requires a combination of training, monitoring and assessment.
Here’s a close look:
Safety training for a mobile workforce
Every worker needs to have the information, instruction and training they require to operate safely. The level and frequency of training will depend on the particular demands of each role:
Everyone who works for your business, including the self-employed, needs to be given the information and training they need to comply with safety protocols and policies. Typically, health and safety will form a part of a company’s onboarding process, making sure that every new hire receives a basic level of information.
Any workers with a supervisory role will need to have a greater understanding of health and safety matters than non-supervisory employees. They have to understand the employer’s responsibilities and their role in managing and maintaining the health and safety plan.
What’s the legal position on health and safety training?
Making sure that workers have the skills and knowledge they require to work safely is covered by an employer’s basic common law ‘duty of care’ responsibility
It’s also specified in two main acts which are:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 (Section 2)
This requires every employer to provide whatever info, training and supervision is required to ensure, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, the health and safety of workers.
This is bolstered by Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 which emphasises the need for effective training to cover challenges such as:
- New starters
- People exposed to new or increased risks
- Workers whose safety knowledge is ‘rusty’ or outdated
The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
This places a responsibility on employers to consult with workers, or their representatives, on health and safety matters, including training. It also starts that training must be paid for by the employer and organised within working hours.
What form should training take?
The simple answer is - whatever works best. It depends on the type of training required and the specialist knowledge and resources available within the business. Where any gaps exist, external trainers and agencies can be used.
Some of the most common training methods include:
- Written safety resources and instruction
- On-the-job training
- On-site ‘classroom’ training
- Open and distance learning courses
- Group or individual safety instruction
- Online or interactive tutorials
The most effective safety training is often to use a mix of different methods. Digital technology provides a range of effective ways to ensure that mobile workers always have access to relevant safety information and instruction.
While traditionally, information has been presented in the form of paper documents and booklets, it can now be communicated in a range of ways - from instructional videos to interactive presentations, quizzes and challenges.
How do you assess the effectiveness of training?
Whatever methods you choose, you need to find ways to make sure that it’s effective. That workers are getting the knowledge and instruction they need to comply with your company’s health and safety plan.
Ensuring that safety training is put into practice is particularly difficult when managing a mobile workforce with employees often working remotely and independently. An unfortunate consequence of this is that training gaps and deficiencies have often only been revealed when they help lead to an accident or injury.
It’s a problem that digital management systems are helping to tackle.
A digital workforce management system such as MyMobileWorkers allows task-related safety notifications and reminders to be delivered in real-time via on-screen messages on a smartphone.
Fieldworkers can be required to confirm that safety protocols have been followed and even asked to provide digital images to show that a safety step has been completed. MyMobileWorkers also allows completed jobs to be given a safety rating by line managers. This looks at the quality of the safety information and feedback that has been provided by an employee.
It’s an effective way to monitor safety performance over time, help to guard against the risk of good practices fading over time.