Organisations experiencing a shortage of workers amid record job vacancies should be careful not to ‘sleepwalk’ into a health and safety ‘nightmare’, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (Iosh) has warned.
It said healthy and safe working practices should not be compromised in order to maintain productivity levels and published a checklist to help organisations get the balance right.
“There should be no compromise on health and safety, with the prevention of harm and protection of workers being paramount,” said head of health and safety Ruth Wilkinson.
“Good risk management practice and control strategies must be in place, while workers must be made aware of the hazards, the risks and the controls.”
Wilkinson said organisations should continue to provide appropriate training, such as staff inductions, competency requirements and refreshers, making sure staff are aware of health and safety arrangements and their responsibilities.
“It’s always important to ensure there’s a planned and risk-controlled approach to prevention, focused on safe people, safe systems, safe workplaces and safe equipment,” Wilkinson said. “Have relevant arrangements in place for how the risks are to be managed. For example, occupational driving and road safety policies need to cover suitable and properly maintained vehicles; driver suitability; fitness and training; and also realistic timescales for journeys, to prevent stress or pressure to take risks.
“It is imperative that the management of risks continues to be implemented to protect people.”
Iosh’s worker shortage checklist
|Resource planning||Have you worked out what resource you need against what you have available for the required tasks? Can you still complete those tasks safely? Understanding how many workers are available, worker skills sets and competency requirements, shift patterns, tasks to be completed and the number of workers required to fulfil a task safely will help you understand your capacity and capabilities with the number of workers available to you.|
|Policies and procedures||Are these still viable or have they been affected by staff shortages and now need to be revised?|
|Risk assessments||Are the hazards and risks different now you have a shortage of workers? Do your risk assessments need to be reviewed and updated? Remember to consult with workers.|
|Safe systems of work/Safe operating procedures||Do these take account of a shortage of workers or do they need to be changed? Can tasks still be completed safely with fewer workers? For example, consider a task that needs two or three people, say, a three-man lift. If an organisation now only has one person to complete the task, that person wouldn’t be able to complete the task safely. It’s time to revisit the risk assessment to determine how that task now needs to be carried out.|
|Cross-training workers||Could it make sense to train workers to carry out different tasks and roles to cover worker shortages?|
|Checks||Checks will be needed on machinery, vehicles, fire systems and for legionella, for example. Have you made it a priority to ensure that all checks (daily, weekly, monthly and annually) are still fulfilled and that there continues to be either no, or limited, risk to workers?|
|Mental health and wellbeing||Have you considered how staff shortages might impact the mental health of your workers? Along with the pressures of over-working, workers may feel isolation, fatigue, anxiety and stress. How will you manage the potential increase in workload, working hours and lone working, for example, on workers’ mental health? What controls do you have in place?|
|Communication||How are you going to keep your people informed on the worker shortage situation? Do you have a plan? Staff morale will benefit if workers are included in discussions and feel valued, considered and part of the process.|