The annual Barbour Directors’ Club conference was held at Excel yesterday in London. I was privileged to be part of a panel of experts covering everything from legal issues, risk management, the PR angle and how to identify potential life threatening incidents. It kicked off with a Tug of war – a visual presentation of how tensions between priorities can cause a tug of war and impact how health and safety is managed.
The statistics provided by a health and safety legal expert concentrated the minds on the number of directors who are prosecuted on an annual basis for breaches to health and safety legislation – on average 38 a year, many times over the amount estimated by the attendees. The fines varied enormously, depending in part on the size of the organisation. The other statistics that should interest companies is the rise in investigations and follow up prosecutions on corporate manslaughter. Managing a company’s risk is not only key to limiting the risk of prosecution but also to ensure that insurance premiums are limited. Another interesting angle was the question of how many companies actually publicise what they are doing to promote their health and safety practises. This ought to be viewed as something to shout about.
I was interested to gauge from a show of hands by those attending that most of the audience saw their role as part of a broader strategic sustainability function. This is a key change in senior health and safety managers’ roles of the past few years, but there was also evidence that there is still a gap in making it a core part of the businesses operations and top management spend. With business becoming more global the outsourcing of products and services is more common. The conditions of workers/subcontractor safety is also becoming more of a challenge. Good, sustainable supply chain management means having a strategic approach to incorporating health and safety into that approach. Very few companies seemed to have adequately addressed this issue in their codes of conduct.
Health and safety issues seem to be becoming more alive again and we need to see more research and work around the benefits of promoting health and safety in the supply chain
For more about the speakers see here.