Reporting Hazards

Hazard Reporting Systems & Free Gifts

Reporting hazards and doing something about them is a fundamental part of health and safety management. Actually, scratch that! It is just the right thing to do to improve everyday work for your workers. It is not an exclusive health and safety thing. It is something that business can do to help support their workers, assist them in solving problems and ultimately make it easier to do things well so that there are more successful outcomes than unwanted ones (safety being one of those outcomes).

That being said, the reporting of issues in a business are usually connected with hazards. It is something that is ingrained into you during any health and safety course. Identify hazards, eliminate them or apply controls to mitigate the potential risk. Typically, this has been the job of risk assessment and the reporting of new hazards, near misses, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts is subject to some internal process, where frontline workers are encouraged to report issues and concerns to managers.

In fact, this reporting is often incentivized where employees are instructed to “report 10 unsafe conditions each” or “we need 50 near misses a month, so go out and report some”. The problem being, that often workers are simply not involved in near misses; or unsafe conditions and unsafe acts become normalized because “that is the way we do this here”. On top of that, because there is now a target or metric on how many issues get reported, a company gets low value, pointless reports like “someone left a paper cup on the side”, but hey its another one on the target so we will take it! Aren’t we really good at safety?!

I am not getting into who decides what’s an unsafe act or even how problematic it can be putting targets on the reporting of these things (I will save this for another blog). A decent internal reporting system for hazardous conditions and near misses can be extremely beneficial. All the reports provided are gifts. Opportunities for learning about everyday work and taking action to make that everyday work better. So a company should do what it can to encourage these gifts.

Show me the numbers!

There are some basic elements needed for a good, robust system for reporting and actioning issues. One of the main ones is ease of use. Often the users of these systems are overlooked, and health and safety people create a system that helps the health and safety person, not the people who use it. Assumptions are made by health and safety people as they generally “know stuff” on reporting issues including the terminology. Frontline workers may not know this terminology and therefore are put off by jargon filled forms. Similarly, reporting systems have a beady little eye on the outputs from gathering the data, not just trying make improvements. I mean, which business doesn’t want loads of numbers and data. The more the better, right?! And if you can create a portfolio of pie charts, bar graphs and trend lines, you must be doing an amazing job preventing injuries! In truth, the time spent on gathering all this data, creating swish excel graphs and then developing PowerPoint presentations that can put a glass eye to sleep, is not a great use of time. And while there is a place for data to help signpost to addressing problems, time is better spent actually solving problems than creating dashboards.

Sexy Graphs
Reporting issues is all about sexy graphs and charts isn’t it?

Who reported that?

Then there is the age old problem of blaming frontline workers. No name and no blame is a term used a great deal, often as part of just culture. Sometimes, management and leadership do one of two things when it comes to reporting issues. In creating a no name reporting system, you ensure that reports are pretty much anonymous. You can’t have difficult conversations or even get to the point of discipline if a report doesn’t have names on it. This can encourage workers to report lots of issues, safe in the knowledge it cannot be traced back to them. This is problematic though as if you wanted to find out more information, you have no idea who to go for further review. Or a company can insist on names. Of course, this is not to blame individuals you realise (yeah OK), it is just companies love to know who reported stuff. Trouble is, this then limits the amount of information and reports a company might receive. The information is somewhat diluted or parts missing. Or worse, companies just don’t find anything out as frontline workers fear difficult conversations, being disciplined or simply don’t want to rat out their mates. You know the drill. A report comes in from someone who witnessed a colleague breaking one of the golden health and safety rules. Holy Crap, this is going to get messy. Investigations start and before you know it, you are hauled into a glass-walled office and interrogated, AC12 style like a scene from a Jed Mercurio drama. “Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey”, if nothing is going to keep your lips closed then it’s that. Then before you know it, you haven’t ratted on your mate, but now you are guilty by keeping schtum and are facing a stint in the health and safety clink for your trouble.  

It’s a catch 22. Personally, I feel the most effective way to resolve this is the creation and development of trust. Trust between frontline workers and those at the blunt end. A reporting system that restricts access to names to a few individuals, which is used only in the spirit of finding out more and being curious is a far better stance. Being confidential, remember that?

I said hey, hey, hey, hey…what’s going on?

And lastly, feedback. Or when it comes to reporting systems, a total lack of it. Picture this. You spot a hazard, something that is not only a hindrance, but it is reasonably foreseeable that exposure can lead to an injury. You report it using a wonderful reporting system. Then…radio silence! You hear nothing. For weeks. For months. Supervisors and managers become almost mute. Your workplace is like a temple where all the occupants have taken a vow of silence. And still, the hazard is there, being a hinderance and its only a matter of time before you or someone else gets hurt. How likely are you to report something in the future? “What’s the point, nothing ever gets done”.

It’s great reporting issues. It’s even better doing something about them. You cannot improve work by solely reporting. The improvements to work only come when action happens. When you actually go and solve the problem as best you can. And once action has taken place, offer feedback either to the person who raised the concern, or briefings or other communication forums the company might have.

An Actual Free Gift For You

Developing systems for reporting can be problematic. Paper? Electronic? Both? Data collection? Communicating back out and feedback? Paper systems solely, can be user friendly but then of course someone needs to input the data into a computer to get some sexy looking graphs, which means time. OK, so let’s go electronic and we can do that a bit quicker. We still need a way of getting data into excel to make those sexy graphs and how do we then report it to a wider audience and back to the person who raised it? So generally, what happens is, there is a patchwork of word documents, excel files with umpteen tabs, rows, columns, PowerPoints with clever animations among other things. All needing administration. Or companies then look to software firms who have developed electronic reporting systems which offer all the functionality you wish, the sexy graphs…all for a fee of course.

What would you say if I told you that you can create an electronic reporting system which reports issues straight away, informs people of feedback, can create your sexy looking charts and is also user friendly; and you are already have the software and equipment to do it? There is simply no need to purchase or subscribe to anything new, if you want a relatively simply and effective reporting system.

Most people in companies will have a Microsoft 365/Exchange account and if you do, you can create your system, the system you want, in just a morning!

I have done this myself. I was curious about doing it. I learned it and now I am offering it to you for FREE. Yes, that is right. I am offering to come into your business or get on a web call, and show you how to create a system for yourself, for nothing. I don’t want anything in return. I just want to help your company develop a system if they don’t already have one or help improve one if you want to create something electronic. After all, if you have a good reporting system, with action being taken to make improvements, the workplace becomes a safer and more efficient place. Helping people carry out their work safely is reward enough. If you want to take me up on this offer, please contact me through LinkedIn or through my website and we can talk further.

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