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Why is Health and Safety leadership important?

The safest workplaces are those where H&S standards are set at a high level – from the very top right down throughout the organisation. You must lead by example and encourage everyone to adopt a safe and compliant attitude to working safely.

Why directors and board members need to act

Directors and boards need to examine their own behaviours, both individually and collectively, against the guidance given. 

Where you see that you fall short of the standards set by regulations & procedures, you need to change what you do to become more effective leaders in health and safety.

The health and safety of your workforce should be considered as a key business risk in board decisions. By risk profiling your business, you are protecting the safety and health of your employees and also members of the public who may be affected by your company’s activities. Be lead by risk and not by law.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the hazards?
  • Who can they harm?
  • How are we going to manage the risk?

This must become embedded within your organisation so that it becomes what you do and not a bureaucratic nightmare.

Essential principles of Safety Leadership

Strong leadership from the top should be visible to your staff, with an active commitment from the board. You can establish effective ‘downward’ communication systems and management structures, showing integration of good health and safety management within business decisions.

What does this mean in practice?

  • Talking to your staff
  • Taking an interest in their role
  • Asking them about what they are doing
  • Asking yourself how they can get hurt doing this
  • What do you need to make it safer?
  • Getting a commitment from employees to work safely
  • If you see employees working safely thank them (believe me, they will feel that you care about their safety)

Get your staff involved. It’s a great idea to engage your workforce in the promotion and achievement of safe working conditions. Providing good, quality training combined with the use of effective, ‘upward’ communication will work in your company’s favour.

Your assessment and review should involve:

  • identifying and managing health and safety risks
  • accessing (and following) competent advice
  • monitoring, reporting and reviewing performance

Addressing health and safety should not be a burden: it offers significant opportunities and the benefits include a safer workplace and fewer accidents. Employees who are healthier, happier and motivated will result in your business suffering lower employee absence and turnover rates.

By looking after all of this, you should see a reduction in costs to your business due to:

  • a reduction in the number of claims
  • a reduction in your liability premium
  • a reduced threat of legal action by enforcing authorities
  • an improved standing among suppliers and partners
  • a better reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities
  • an increase in productivity


By Ken Stevens CMIOSHRisk Services Manager

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