The 6 Pillars of Reporting Health & Safety Issues in the Workplace

Adrian A.
Mar 23, 2021

Preparation is key in all areas of life. In business, proper preparation can be the difference between success and failure. While many business leaders focus on market assessment to prepare business strategies, one often overlooked aspect of preparation in business is setting up a procedure and training on how to report a potential hazard in the workplace. 

Establishing a procedure for reporting health and safety issues is an important part of workplace safety planning. All employees and managers must know what they need to do when they see a potential safety hazard in the workplace. Not reporting potential hazards is essentially brushing things under the carpet, which can lead to bigger problems in the long term. 

The bottom line is creating a healthy and safe work environment protects the most important asset in your company: your employees. There are also many other benefits in achieving an excellent track record in health and safety, from employees feeling valued to increased productivity, that feeds into each other to create a better business overall. 

This article will outline the six pillars of an effective hazard reporting program:

  • The rights and role of an employee in creating a safe working environment
  • The employer’s duty to provide hazard reporting training
  • The role of the manager or supervisor to proactively identify potential hazards. 
  • Creating a general risk assessment and a lone working risk assessment.
  • The most common reasons employees don’t report potential hazards.
  • How to make reporting hazards easier for everyone involved.

The Rights & Role of an Employee in Creating a Safe Working Environment

According to a report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), employees have the right to:

  • Work in places where all health and safety risks are properly controlled;
  • Stop working and leave the area if they think you are in danger;
  • Be consulted on matters related to their health and safety at work;
  • Inform their employer about health and safety issues or concerns;
  • Contact HSE or the local authority, if they still have health and safety concerns, without getting into trouble;
  • Join a trade union and be a safety representative;
  • Paid time off work for training if they are a safety representative;
  • A rest break of at least 20 minutes if you work more than six hours at a stretch and to an annual period of paid leave; 
  • Suitable and sufficient toilets, washing facilities and drinking water; and
  • Adequate first-aid facilities.

In addition to these rights, employees also have a role to play in ensuring workplace safety. According to the HSE and TUC reports, employees must:

  • Take care of their own health and safety and that of people who may be affected by what they do (or do not do);
  • Cooperate with others on health and safety, and not interfere with, or misuse, anything provided for their health, safety or welfare; and
  • Follow the training they have received when using any work items that their employer has given them.

The HSE has listed “reporting potential health and safety issues, concerns or hazards” as an employee’s right. Since this is their right, it is upon the employer to ensure that the proper channels and training are available for them to report any potential hazards. 

The employer’s duty to provide hazard reporting training

A hazard reporting program is a great way to ensure that your organisation is always looking out for employee safety. It fulfils the rights for employees to raise issues that they may have with their work environment, and it’s a good way for supervisors and managers to identify hazards and to initiate corrective action.

A key aspect for hazard reporting programs to work is making sure your employees know and understand the importance of reporting the potential hazards they encounter as they perform their day-to-day duties. This is where hazard reporting training comes in. 

Excellent hazard reporting training should ensure employees know:

  • The difference between an unsafe condition or action that should be reported and a condition or action that does not need to be reported;
  • Exactly how to respond during the moment they witness an unsafe condition or action;
  • To whom they should report any potential hazards to;
  • By when should a potential hazard be reported by;
  • What to expect after reporting a potential hazard, such as follow-up procedures; and
  • Where they can find a copy of the organisation’s Hazard Reporting Procedure.

The role of the manager or supervisor to proactively identify potential hazards

It’s not just a worker’s responsibility to report any potential hazard they see. Managers and supervisors are also responsible to take proactive action in identifying potential hazards, whether or not these hazards are visible in the workplace. 

Here’s a clarification of the different roles between workers and their managers or supervisors when it comes to reporting hazards. 

A worker might come across a broken ladder, which is a potential hazard because a person climbing a broken ladder has a higher risk of falling. Thus, the worker needs to report the broken ladder. However, if the ladder is not broken, there is nothing for the worker to report. 

Managers and supervisors however need to identify and record “working at height” as a potential risk, regardless of the ladder’s condition. This is all part of a risk assessment in the workplace, which every organisation that has five or more employees are legally obliged to do and keep a record of.

Creating a general risk assessment and a lone working risk assessment

The main objective of a general and lone working risk assessment is to determine how to decrease occupational injuries and ill health for your company. The solutions involved after a risk assessment can range from health and safety training to PPE, a regular schedule of equipment maintenance, and so on.

A risk assessment, whether it is a general one or a specific one for lone working, consists of five steps. 

  • Identify (the hazards) 
  • Assess (the risks)
  • Control (the risks)
  • Record (your findings)
  • Review (the controls)

The best way to do a risk assessment is by following a system that gives you visibility of all five steps at a glance, from the hazards through to the controls in place. 

To help you get started, we have a free lone worker risk assessment template that you can download and use for both a general workplace risk assessment and a specific risk assessment for lone workers.

Lone Worker Risk Assessment Template

Working with this lone worker risk assessment template can help you in three ways:

  1. It ensures you do not miss out on any critical steps for each hazard identified.
  2. It makes it easier to spot weak areas that need extra solutions.
  3. It gives your team members quick visibility on what they are responsible for to ensure the safety of lone workers in the organisation. 

The most common reasons employees don’t report potential hazards.

If you have already conducted a risk assessment for your employees and lone workers, and you have a hazard reporting program in place, then you have fulfilled your role as a manager or employee in creating a safe working environment. 

However, having these procedures in place does not guarantee that employees will report the potential hazards they see. The common reasons employees are discouraged to report hazards can generally be divided into three categories: 

1. They don’t understand the importance of reporting hazards. Employees may feel:

  • Reporting the common hazards they encounter is not necessary.
  • The hazards are not serious enough to report.
  • They know how to stay safe around the hazard and so they don’t need to report it.

2. There isn’t a safe environment to report hazards. Employees may feel:

  • They will get in trouble with their supervisor or be seen as a complainer.
  • They don’t want to be blamed for the hazard or be seen as irresponsible for causing the hazard.

3. Reporting hazards add more work to their plate. Employees may feel:

  • Reporting it will just cause a headache for everyone involved.
  • It adds extra paperwork to their plate that takes up a lot of time.
  • It will distract them from completing the job they need to finish.

To ensure a successful hazard reporting program, employers need to proactively remove as many of these barriers to reporting as possible. This will make it easier for everyone involved in the hazard reporting program. 

How to make reporting hazards easier for everyone

Removing the barriers to reporting hazards needs to be tackled through training and processes. 

Firstly, conducting proper hazard reporting training will ensure employees understand what kind of hazards need to be reported, why it can’t be ignored, and that it is safe to submit a hazard report without repercussions for reporting. 

Secondly, the reporting process itself should be as easy and as fast as possible. If reporting requires time-consuming paperwork and/or going through many layers of management, workers will be discouraged from submitting a report because of the hassle and time it takes away from their job. No one wants to work overtime just to submit a hazard report!

Solutions such as digitised incident reporting can help organisations eliminate timely speed up and streamline how they capture, manage, and report safety incidents. 

In conclusion, when all parties are aware of their roles and responsibilities in hazard reporting, everyone can enjoy a safe work environment. 

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