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© Ikon
© Ikon

02 September 2019 Herpreet Kaur Grewal

We investigate how health and safety has evolved in the workplace.

New Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show the number of workplace fatalities is increasing. Provisional data indicates that 147 workers were fatally injured between April 2018 and March 2019. 

While the number of fatal injuries to construction workers is the lowest on record (30), these latest figures show the rate of fatal workplace injuries (fatalities per 100,000 workers) at almost three times the average across all sectors.

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be workers falling from height (40), being struck by a moving vehicle (30) and being struck by a moving object (16), accounting for nearly 60 per cent of fatal injuries in 2018/19.

The figures also showed that 25 per cent of fatal injuries were to workers aged 60 or over, even though they made up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.

Mesothelioma, which is contracted through past exposure to asbestos, killed 2,523 in the UK in 2017, a broadly similar number to the previous five years. The figures are largely because of occupational asbestos exposure before 1980, and annual deaths are expected to remain similar for some years to come.

With this in mind, and with fire safety in particular a hot button topic of late, we asked you about your approach to this critical compliance concern. What is informing your organisation’s approach to health and safety in the workplace? Has your strategy changed significantly over the last 10 years and, if so, in what ways? What health and safety issues have you found / do you find most challenging? 

Identifying Risks

Staying on top of health and safety compliance through external accreditations is essential, but it’s not enough. Identifying risks throughout the business is critical to mitigating and managing those risks. Atalian Servest has a dedicated risk committee to evaluate risks identified at each level of management, which is vital for developing effective policies and work practices. 

“Line managers and dedicated QHSE teams for each business line carry out audits, drilling right down to project level to ensure compliance with our polices. Direction from the main board and risk committee is then cascaded back to all management teams so everybody is fully informed.

“Atalian Servest has also been developing QHSE software to ensure our health and safety process can be streamlined across our multi-site operations. Collaborative working between customers and service providers has also increased over the last 10 years, enabling each party to fulfil their legal duties, manage risk, communicate safety messages and ensure safer working practices throughout the supply chain.

“There are still potential hazards that present challenges for us and our customers, such as asbestos, working at height, electrical safety and fire safety. We plan for these on a site-by-site basis and ensure we have the correct equipment in place and our staff are highly trained. In order to address fire safety issues, increase our areas of expertise and improve services, Atalian Servest recently purchased a specialist fire company.”

Alistair McCourt, QHSE director, Atalian Servest

Building as living spaces

“As with any business operations, but especially those facing the public, having one reliable source of data can be crucial in avoiding situations that may cause health and safety breaches or, in more extreme cases, catastrophic building failures such as fires and floods.

“A unified compliance system, whereby both client and service provider know the current and future state of their building infrastructure, can be paramount in protecting those using the space daily. Materials deteriorate and facilities get overused, and they require FM’s time and effort to keep them up and running.

“We think of buildings as living spaces that actively require attention. So we use Cati, our online building compliance management solution that displays all the necessary information to assist in the running of successful buildings. Missing links can be spotted, overdue services are highlighted, and possible problems can be prevented, all through one system. Compliance becomes much easier to achieve, and improved health and safety goes hand in hand with this.”

Harrison Briggs, operations manager, Churchill Group

Maintain compliance

“A common challenge for companies that outsource services is how to maintain compliance, and ensure high health and safety standards. The more services you outsource, the harder this can become. Health and safety has been of vital importance for many decades and we’re now seeing more of an appetite from businesses to find a way to manage via a single point of control. The latest generation of FM models are responding to this need by including compliance as a key part of their offering. 

“The Integrator sits as an independent and impartial service alongside the client and supply chain, and guarantees a uniformity in how health and safety standards are set and upheld. All suppliers can receive the same training, documents and guidance that internal teams are given. Having one single point of control can reduce the numerous health and safety issues that arise when working with multiple suppliers.”

Mark Sutcliffe, managing director, FM Integrator at KBR

The five C's

“One of the key changes that I have seen in health and safety over the last 10 years is the focus on culture. A strong health and safety culture enables organisations to implement their policies and arrangements more efficiently and effectively. This brings financial benefits, reduces legal liabilities, but first and foremost it brings huge improvements in health and safety for employees.

“The Health and Safety Executive defines safety culture as ‘the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management’. This definition can at first seem daunting and intangible, prompting the question ‘what can we do practically to improve our safety culture?’

“The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health helps with this by breaking safety culture down into a series of four tangible aspects. I have added one more to this list.

“The first is commitment. Strong and visible commitment to health and safety at all levels will help improve safety. The senior leadership team can (and should) demonstrate their commitment by integrating health and safety into all of their business decisions, providing sufficient resources, and getting actively involved through safety tours and chairing the safety committee and so on.

“The second is competence. It is self-evident that organisations should engage employees with the right knowledge, skills, training and experience to work safely. In my view, however, the key aspect of competence is a positive attitude. Attitude can be assessed at the time of employment through references, and also influenced during employment through positive communication and commitment from the senior leadership team.

“The third is cooperation. Employees that are actively engaged in day-to-day aspects of health and safety, such as inspections, risk assessments and accident investigations, tend to think more positively. In turn, they are more likely to work with the organisation to flag issues and suggest workable improvements.

“The fourth is control. This is made up of effective safety arrangements, supervision, monitoring and review of safety.


“My fifth addition is communication. Clear communication of the organisation’s health and safety goals ensures that everyone knows how their actions contributes to achieving them. In addition, the sharing of lessons learned after incidents will raise the game of all parts of the organisation that could be affected. Such communications are more effective if done through a range of media to engage as many employees as possible. It is equally important that employees are able to communicate health and safety issues upwards, again through a range of different methods.”

Helen Green, health and safety consultant at International Workplace