Having effective health and safety procedures in place is vital in order to reduce the chances of accidents in the workplace. As well as reducing the possibility of accidents occurring in the first place, careful thought should also be given to determining the procedures that should be followed in the event of an accident, including who does what and when. Having a clear plan of action in place enables the damage (to a person, building/equipment or company's reputation) to be kept to a minimum. Having to think of what to do whilst an emergency is unfolding will lead to a delay in the necessary things being done, as well as key activities (e.g. fire sweeping during an evacuation) being forgotten about and not being done at all. |
These procedures form one of the major components of a firm's health and safety policy. It is easy to think of this as a document that just needs to be written once and then left, but it is vitally important to make sure that these procedures are constantly reviewed.
Virtually every workplace is continually changing, whether it be the people working within it, the machinery being used, the different products being produced etc. Whenever there is a change, some part of the existing procedures are likely to be affected. For example, the health and safety policy should detail who does what in response to an emergency like a fire, such as who is responsible for checking particular rooms or areas have been evacuated, who performs the role call when people have gathered at the fire assembly point etc. If one of those people leaves the company, somebody else needs to take over their duties, and this also needs to be clearly communicated. If this does not happen, the tasks may not get done at all, or different people may start doing them after completing their own duties, which could mean they get trapped by the fire.
Different machinery also leads to a revision to the health and safety procedures being needed. There is little point in a worker knowing the procedures for shutting down the coal-fired power station when the whole thing was converted to gas-fuelled two years ago!
Obviously the above example is a little extreme, but it highlights that fact that the health and safety policy for a change in conditions, including new equipment, needs to be understood by existing workers, and isn't something that just needs to be read by new starters, as what they read when they started the job may be completely different to now.
Most companies will review and amend their health and safety policy and associated emergency procedures once a year. This is acceptable if there have been no particular changes, but if something has happened which affects the policy such as a change in personnel of those with a responsibility in an emergency, the policy should be changed and communicated to staff immediately. Even if it has been eleven months since you last reviewed your procedures and it is due to be looked at again in a month's time, an incident may occur within that month, and everybody needs to be clear on exactly who does what and when. It could save your life.
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