There are complex models available that help organisations map their health and safety management systems to determine the level of risk management maturity or safety culture maturity but sometimes it’s useful to have a less formal “litmus paper” of how well a health and safety management system is working.
In the early 1980s, Scandinavian Airlines discovered that if the flip out tray on their planes had a coffee stain on it when opened, surveyed customers felt uncomfortable about the state of the engine, the competence of the pilots and the engineers, and the safety of the flight generally. When I did some work with Dutch health and safety inspectors they explained that they could tell everything they needed to know about an organisation’s health and safety management system from the state of the reception area. If they found a dirty foyer, they would focus on housekeeping in the factory; if the receptionist was disorganised, they would look more closely at procedures and instructions. The coffee stain and the reception experience are litmus tests of what’s going on underneath. Here then are some suggestions for litmus tests of whether an organisation has a good health and safety management system.
How would your organisation measure up to these tests? Are you still managing health and safety with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and copious emails? Or do you have a system that supports the aims of the business, as well as providing assurance that health and safety management is working? Is health and safety siloed into a single department, or do you have a forward thinking management culture which welcomes health and safety improvement as a means of making the organisation more successful and productive?
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