Double take

Investors in People can be an effective mechanism in identifying vulnerable
areas in a company and building regular health and safety training into
organisational procedures.  By Cathie
Head and Jenny McCarter

On the face of it, Investors in People (IIP) and health and safety may
appear two quite separate areas of business procedure. To start with, standards
in health and safety are imposed by law, whereas going for the IIP award is a
voluntary decision made by a company to improve its performance, with required
standards to be met being determined by the company itself.

Where health and safety procedures have to be put in place to prevent any
ultimate loss of profit resulting from negative events, IIP is an optional,
proactive scheme to develop and implement measures designed to increase
profitability. In short, health and safety is associated with compliance and
IIP with commitment. The recently updated IIP standard now directly refers to
the "organisation being committed to equality of opportunity in the
development of its people".

The regular introduction of new directives and legislation means that health
and safety compliance is very much a moving target and the role of the health
and safety manager is an increasingly demanding one. A great deal of time must
be dedicated to keeping abreast of changing legal requirements. Not only that,
dramatic changes in work cultures are presenting new and more complex problems
where health and safety is concerned.

Flexible work trends

Over the last decade, there has been a steady increase in flexible work
hours and job-sharing schemes. Modem links and e-mail have made it easy and
effective for employees to operate from a home-based office, adding even more
flexibility to the working schedule. Widespread "downsizing" has
meant that more companies are employing contractors or freelance resource,
often on an ad hoc, irregular basis.

So the ebb and flow of employees in and out of company premises is becoming
all the more difficult to track.

These trends have meant a higher level of "hot desking" where
working areas and equipment are used by more than one person. This means
maintenance of consistent ergonomic factors becomes a problem, such as settings
for computer screens, VDU positions, or adjustment of chairs.

The increase in smaller independent enterprises, particularly in the service
and consultant sectors, means it is more likely that one person may be manning
an office single-handed, either permanently if they run a smaller regional
outpost of a company, or regularly if they are holding the fort while managers
and/or sales people are out of the office.

Many employees of small- to medium-sized firms do a great deal of travelling
on company business, using their own vehicles. These are not only sales
representatives or consultants, but also secretaries and administrative staff,
who may make local but frequent car journeys in order to access resources in
which the company cannot justify an investment internally. These include
services such as photocopy shops, printers and graphic design houses.

Other cost-saving activities, such as making airport and station runs to
collect or drop off colleagues and clients, rather than using taxis, are
common. Additionally, rather than provide a company car, many organisations
prefer to give eligible employees a car allowance as part of their salary. This
means they have less control over the reliability and safety of a vehicle being
used regularly by the employee in company time on company business.

Long hours

Stress management initiatives and "new age" trends towards more
balanced lifestyles notwithstanding, "workaholism" is still endemic.
Again, those especially – though by no means exclusively – likely to be working
alone and late in the office, are employees of smaller organisations. Limited
resource may mean that the only way to submit a new business proposal or
contract quotation on time is to burn the midnight oil, often in solitude.
Afterwards they may wander into a darkened car park, before a long drive in a
fatigued or stressed state, or walk through city streets late at night, before
having to wait around at a bus stop, railway or underground station.

Changing trends in personal finance have also affected the nature of working
culture. The surge in sales of personal pensions schemes, an ever-expanding
market for financial products and the concurrent demand for the services of
financial advisers means the number of salesmen and consultants who call on
existing and prospective clients in their homes has dramatically increased.

A long-standing business which requires frequent home visits to
"unknown quantities" is estate agency. Here the issue of personal
safety was tragically highlighted by the Suzy Lamplugh case, and as a result
the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has been established as a national charity for personal
safety.

The trust, which is itself currently undergoing the IIP programme, publishes
booklets, runs training courses and has just launched a new video, First Steps
to Personal Safety at Work, for companies to use as part of their induction
programme.

The health and safety issues that these factors present are clear, once they
are available to examine. However, identifying such factors in the first place
can be a complex exercise, as can the process of determining appropriate
training. These risk factors for health and safety, and the training
requirements they indicate, only become apparent through close observation of
the role and activity of each individual employee, at an in-depth personal
level. It is in the area of training where Investors in People and health and
safety overlap in terms of meeting each of their objectives.

Training needs

Within small and medium-sized organisations, it is important that everybody
who may or may not be at risk has some opportunity for awareness raising and
training, and the IIP standard can be a useful structure within which to
identify some of the training needs. A typical organisation might start, for
example, with a review of the job roles of each member of staff with a view to
identifying potential personal safety issues. This type of exercise, often
termed "training needs analysis", may take the form of a variety of
activities, such as interviews, questionnaires, discussion groups etc. For
smaller businesses that do not have adequate resources to carry out this type
of investigation, specialist consultants are available to give assistance and
guidance.

Staff motivation

Once the gaps in training and development needs have been identified, the
organisation is able to consider how best to meet them. This could be through a
tailored course for all staff, contact with organisations such as the Health
and Safety Executive or the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, or through structured training
plans. By undergoing this process, whether formally or informally (training
plans no longer need to be documented), the development and care of individuals
will increase motivation, which in turn leads to improved performance, thereby
making the business more profitable.

Cathie Head is specialist consultant in Investors in People and Jenny
McCarter is a specialist consultant in health and safety at training
consultancy Paul Temple Associates.

First Steps to Personal Safety at Work is available from Hascombe
Enterprises, tel: 020-7945 6090 e-mail: sales@fastguides.co.uk

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust is the National Charity for Personal Safety.  For information contact the Suzy Lamplugh Trust,
14 East Sheen Avenue, London SW14 8AS. Tel: 0208392 1839,    www.suzylamplugh.org
Registered charity number 802567

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