New Health and Safety Guidelines for Directors

United Kingdom
“Health and Safety is integral to success.  Board members who do not show leadership in this area are failing in their duty as directors and their moral duty, and are damaging their organisation”

A quote from  “Leading Health and Safety at Work”, new guidelines written ‘by directors, for directors’, launched yesterday by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Institute of Directors. 

The aim of these guidelines is to remind directors across all sectors that they must take the lead on health and safety matters, regardless of the size of their organisation.

Too often health and safety requirements are overlooked by business organisations who view compliance as a hindrance to productivity.  Judith Hackitt, new chair of HSC explains the necessity of the new guidelines:
“It is visible leadership from the top of an organisation which truly makes for an effective health and safety culture which in turn delivers good health and safety performance…I am still confounded by the number of people who see ‘health and safety’ as a barrier to doing things, as experience and evidence shows that the reverse is true”.  She goes on to say, “the challenge before us is changing behaviour. This guidance makes it clear what directors need to do but it is their action and delivery which will really count”. 

The guidance takes a common sense approach, offering straightforward practical advice relating to health and safety policy in the workplace. It sets out a four-step process to establish essential health and safety principles:

1. plan the direction for health and safety;
2. deliver health and safety;
3. monitor health and safety; and
4. review health and safety.

It also provides a summary of legal liabilities, a checklist of key questions for leaders and a list of resources and references for implementing the guidance in detail. 

With the Corporate Manslaughter Act coming into force next year and with it, the possibility of courts considering the ‘attitude’ of an organisation to health and safety and the extent to which it followed guidance, this publication makes for compulsive reading.

The guidelines are available in full at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg417.pdf