As part of ISO 45001 (health and safety) standards, worker competency plays an important part, particularly with regard to making workers aware of hazard identification.
This is because workplace injuries are indicative of breakdowns in basic processes and procedures that threaten the efficiency and financial health of an organisation. So effective health and safety training is a good way to combat the costs associated with bad practice.
Workplace accidents and injuries significantly damage the productivity and efficiency of your operations. Studies have estimated that for every £1 of direct costs incurred in treating and providing disability benefits to an injured employee, employers incur an additional £4 in indirect costs, such as management time spent investigating and handling the claim, lost productivity of the injured worker, hiring and retraining a replacement employee, associated property damage and more.
The cumulative consequences of injuries and accidents are sobering. Such incidents seriously affect bottom-line profit by adding unnecessary costs to your operations and subjecting your company to potential fines and penalties. These costs can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on the size and scope of your business.
Once your organisation has embraced the need to prioritise workplace safety, it must then focus on two interrelated, yet distinctly different, objectives: compliance and accident prevention.
Many organisations, however, make the mistake of limiting their efforts to this first objective, and neglect the second, much greater, challenge: accident prevention. A successful workplace safety programme requires that an organisation address and achieve both objectives.
It’s a sobering thought that 95% of all injuries and accidents are caused by unsafe employee acts, not unsafe conditions.
For example, you may develop very effective standard operating procedures only to discover that no one is following them. You may provide safety glasses and hearing protection, but find no one is wearing them. You may build an ergonomically friendly workstation only to observe poor posture or a ‘creative’ workstation setup.
Because workers’ compensation is a ‘no fault’ system, the costs of injuries that result from lack of employee compliance will still be borne by the organisation, so the only way to ensure a truly successful safety programme is to make the management team responsible for actually preventing injuries and accidents.
In order to accomplish this, a bit of psychology is required. Before managers can take steps to prevent unsafe behaviour they need to first understand what causes people to behave unsafely. This might sound obvious, but when you consider that no one sets out to get injured intentionally, you realise that the complexities of human nature are indeed at play.
There are a range of reasons employees perform unsafe acts. For example, they don’t know the right procedures. Management assumes people will exercise good common sense and therefore does not adequately train employees. Often this is the outcome of safety instruction that is far too general – for example ‘be careful’. Conversely, it may result from handing an employee a large safety rules guide and simply instructing them to read it and sign the dotted line.
Either way, the employee does not really understand – and is therefore not able to follow – correct safety procedures.
They also take short cuts. Sometimes this occurs because an employee simply gets lazy, and believes it’s just easier to not follow the rules. On the other hand, it can also occur because management has inadvertently encouraged not following the rules by placing unrealistic demands on employees or undertaking poor planning, which in turn results in undo pressure to cut corners to meet deadlines.
Then they can get complacent. Statistically, we know that employees can perform an unsafe act hundreds – even thousands – of times, with no resulting accident. This lack of negative consequence reinforces the unsafe behaviour, creating bad work habits and the attitude that “it will never happen to me.”
We know, however, that the more times unsafe acts occur, statistically the more frequently an accident or injury will result.
The key, then, to eliminating injuries and accidents and ultimately the associated costs, is to eliminate unsafe behaviour by counteracting the scenarios outlined above.
Increasingly, hackers are gaining access to corporate phone systems, allowing them to place long distance and international calls through major telecom networks using local systems.
Your organisation could be a victim of this type of fraud and would be responsible for all phone charges. Usually the owner of the phone system isn’t aware it’s happening until an enormous bill from their phone provider arrives. Having a properly secured telephone system is the best way to prevent telephone hacking and mitigate the potential damage and resulting costs to your organisation.
A private branch exchange – or PBX – makes connections among the internal telephones of a private organisation – usually a business – and connects them to a public telephone network via trunk lines, and incorporates telephones, fax machines, modems, and more.
Telephone hackers can infiltrate vulnerable PBX systems to make international and long distance calls, listen to voicemail, or monitor conversations. Victims of hacked PBX systems unknowingly allow the hackers to “sell” the use of their telephone system to others or provide the hackers with an opportunity to maliciously reprogramme their system.
Most PBXs today are software-driven and, when configured improperly, can allow hackers to access the system remotely. By controlling this PBX maintenance port, hackers can change the call routing configuration, alter passwords, add or delete extensions, or shut down a PBX, all of which can be disastrous for an organisation.
Some hackers call in on lines intended for customer use, some use stolen telephone cards, and some will even impersonate someone else to socially engineer their way into your system.
The better informed you are the better protected you are from the risks. You need to stay on top of the current threats, and establish and follow a policy on security for your system.
The principle aim of telephone security is to deter hackers from taking control of a telephone system, as fraudsters after free calls will usually move on to other PBXs if it takes too long to break into a system.
Organisations shouldn’t underestimate the difficulties that can be experienced with this issue. In 2006, the first cybercrime survey conducted by Information Systems Security Association found that 29 per cent of large organisations had fallen victim to telecom fraud at some stage.
In October 2011, the Communications Fraud Control Association reported the results of their 2011 Worldwide Telecom Fraud Survey which told us that estimated annual fraud losses are over £25 billion, and the top five countries where fraud originates include the United States, India, and the United Kingdom.
Some risks can come from, for example, maintenance ports on PBXs which hackers can easily exploit when the ports are left open and are protected by either weak or default passwords.
Organisations often use simple passwords such as 0000, 1234 or the same number as a particular phone extension, which hackers can easily guess to break into the system and run up large phone bills without the victim knowing until they receive their next bill.
You can combat this by installing systems that can bar access to premium rate numbers or even block international calls if the business doesn’t need them.
This year the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the primary piece of legislation covering occupational safety and health in the UK, celebrates its 45th anniversary.
Prior to its enactment, some industries were overly burdened with uncompromising rules whilst others were subject to little or no regulation.
The Health and Safety at Work Act was conceived following consideration by the government that a broader and less prescriptive regulatory regime was required on the basis that ‘those that create risk are best placed to manage it’.
The Health and Safety at Work Act imposes a range of duties on employers, the self employed and employees, as well as others such as designers, manufacturers or suppliers of articles and substances for use at work. It is an important and overarching piece of legislation, as it provides the legal framework to promote and encourage high standards of health and safety in the UK by seeking to reflect the law of the European Union on workplace health and safety. Specific issues that are applicable to particular industry sectors are set out in more detail in subsidiary regulations.
In creating the Health and Safety at Work Act, the government consulted and engaged with employers and employees for the first time in order to develop a health and safety system for modern Britain.
This consultative approach had its advantages – it aimed to simplify the existing health and safety framework, promoted legislation that had real practical application and it helped to raise awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace.
The Health and Safety at Work Act also gave rise to the formation of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was established to absorb a number of different regulatory and scientific organisations. With the help of specific initiatives, most recently the introduction of “Fees for Intervention” which enabled the HSE to recover its costs for carrying out its regulatory functions from those found to be in material breach of health and safety law, the HSE joins in celebrating its fourth decade.
Despite some criticism, the HSE continues to research the effectiveness of relevant legislation by consulting with a number of industry advisory committees to develop its policies and by advising the government on health and safety. This type of collaborative approach should continue to ensure that the HSE policies and health and safety legislation accurately address the issues faced by today’s key industries.
Although the intention to simplify matters may well have been realised in its earlier years, the Health and Safety at Work Act cultivated an excessive amount of secondary legislation, ACOPs and guidance documents.
In 2010, the government finally intervened to reduce the burden that the health and safety system seemed to place on British businesses. There is no doubt that the Health and Safety at Work Act has stood the test of time and is still viewed as the “go-to” piece of legislation by which health and safety is governed.
Between 1974 and 2014 fatal injuries to employees fell by 87 per cent, whilst reported non-fatal injuries have fallen by more than seventy per cent. The UK developed an effective piece of legislation that has subsequently been emulated by countries around the world.
Businesses owe a duty of care to safeguard health and safety at the workplace and they must have an awareness of the main provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act and subordinate regulations relevant to their activities.
The primary purpose of the Health and Safety at Work Act should be to help prevent death, injury and ill-health within the workplace – not simply to prosecute offenders – and this objective should not be forgotten, despite the increased amount of health and safety prosecutions, particularly of individuals, in recent years.
In order to reduce the risk of prosecution and maintain a preventative approach to health and safety, businesses should:
It cannot be denied that Britain has become a safer place for workers since 1974. The degree to which that fact is attributable to the Act versus other factors, such as the general shift away from heavy industry towards a service economy, is debatable.
However, official government figures from the United States, a country with approximately five times the population of Britain, reveal that there were almost thirty times more workplace deaths in that country in 2014 than in the UK.
We should also consider the success of the London Olympic Park, which was constructed without a single fatality, as opposed to the estimated 1,200 workers that have died since Qatar began constructing its 2022 World Cup stadiums.
Although such statistics are of little solace to those who have lost family members, friends and colleagues in the UK, it cannot be denied that Britain has consistently recorded some of the lowest levels of workplace injuries and fatalities in the world in recent years.
The Health and Safety at Work Act has successfully served to raise the consciousness of safety and health issues amongst employers and workers in Britain, although many will suggest that there has been little focus on “health” and more emphasis on “safety”.
Although the Health and Safety at Work Act is used by the HSE and Local Authorities for enforcement purposes, it primarily remains a useful tool to protect employees and the public from work activities, whether faced with prosecution or not.
The environmental management challenges and opportunities facing construction industry through ‘going green’
Pressures to build using less materials and in way to embed efficiency within a structure are being increasingly key issues. Today, businesses across all sectors face countless challenges with the issue of sustainability consistently appearing at or near the top of both public and private sector agendas.
The construction industry is significant, with its output worth over £100 billion a year. The industry accounts for 8% of gross domestic product and provides employment for around three million workers. But in the current economic climate the construction and demolition industry is under ever increasing pressure from government, clients and the public to be seen as an industry where sustainability is a key priority.
The construction industry is trying to compete in an ever ‘greener’ market while tackling challenging economic, regulatory and environmental issues. The industry faces increasing pressure on their response to waste, resource use, carbon and energy management and their supply chain.
In recent years the industry has faced ever increasing pressure to reduce the carbon impact of materials and water use in the built environment by embedding resource efficiency principles in the design and construction of new buildings, infrastructure and refurbishment projects.
Efficient and innovative design and construction not only paves the way towards a future of sustainable construction, but also reduces construction and facilities management costs while providing a competitive edge. The move to a more sustainable construction industry will pose questions, but also offers major opportunities to organisations. Buildings and infrastructure should now interact with their environment including smart grids and sustainable transport infrastructure.
Sustainable construction concerns more than just the fabric of buildings. Construction, maintaining and occupying buildings accounts for almost 50% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. New innovative and unique developments provide an excellent opportunity to build homes and offices that are better not only for the environment but have cheaper construction and operation costs.
Environmental considerations of construction and refurbishment of the built environment are vital as the industry:
The transition to becoming a sustainable business is probably the biggest change since the introduction of IT. Companies and public sector organisations are facing funding and resource constraints while they continue to wrestle with high energy prices. They are also under pressure from governments, regulators and consumers to pay more attention to environmental issues.
To comply with legislation and to ensure competitiveness in the future, carbon and energy management are key areas of focus for the construction industry. The industry faces increasing pressure to report transparently on carbon emissions and to implement energy efficiency measures both in internal operations and new builds.
Companies are going to need the right expertise to deal with new pressures and make the most of new opportunities. We all have a responsibility to build a sustainable future and it’s important that the construction industry meets these challenges head-on.
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