Employers must seek out innovative ways of keeping information channels open between staff and management to increase competitiveness and reduce injuries and deaths at work.
Health and Safety Commission chairman Bill Callaghan said the two objectives are mutually compatible. “There are many sectors where I think we have to be far more innovative in how we involve the workforce,” he said. HSC research shows that where there is staff-employer consultation injury rates are cut by a half.
Callaghan said the commission’s investigation into a 1994 tunnel collapse at Heathrow demonstrated the link between improved health and safety and staff involvement.
Heathrow staff had been in a position to volunteer information about difficulties they had encountered which might have prevented the potentially fatal accident. But there was no means of channelling their views to managers.
He added, “From the health and safety point of view the evidence is incontrovertible. Where there are consultation mechanisms, there are 50 per cent less injuries.”
Callaghan urged employers to remember that it is employees who are most familiar with the hazards they face on a day-to-day basis. “They need to develop innovative ways of tapping into employee knowledge on health and safety,” he said.