• International Workplace
  • 1 November 2018

Improving health and safety standards in a decentralised workplace

Health and safety is important, no matter what type of business you run. It has been shown that stringent health and safety policies can not only improve worker confidence in your business and will make your employees happier, amongst other benefits, it can also increase your bottom line, due to increased consumer confidence and more productive workers.  Likewise, many workplaces have become decentralised, no longer relying on a top down management structure, and thus businesses have to develop new ways of implementing their health and safety agenda. Below we suggest a few ways of improving health and safety standards in a decentralised workplace.


Appoint a health and safety ambassador

If you have a flatter management structure, or even if your business is run using freelancers, then you will not have managers to give orders from above, and in many ways this is for the best. Employees are more likely to listen to those on their own level, so it makes sense for you to appoint a health and safety ambassador whose role it is to spread the word about health and safety policy. This way you have someone who takes responsibility for health and safety concerns, which is at odds with a more centralised system.


Use elearning platforms to spread your health and safety message

Elearning has revolutionised the way in which we spread information, and it can also revolutionise health and safety in the workplace. There are a number of platforms that you can use so that you and your staff can become more knowledgeable about health and safety matters, and these can help your staff take ownership of their learning more, which will aid their learning and uptake of any policies you introduce.

As a business person, you will undoubtedly want to grow your businesses profit margins, to do better against KPIs and to increase consumer confidence. For David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Effective Software, there is one way to do this: through more effective health and safety policies.


Get your employees involved

In a decentralised workplace, one of the biggest benefits is that staff can each have their say on any new policy that your workplace introduces. If you want complete buy-in for your health and safety policies, what better way than to make them a consultation, and then all staff will take complete ownership of them and they will surely be a success and improve the health and safety environment in your workplace.


Have a safest employee award

We often hear of employees being rewarded for strong sales and for making a company money, but not for being the safest employee. This may be a mistake, as safe employees surely make a company as much money as a strong salesperson, or so the research shows. This will be a particularly powerful strategy in a decentralised company, in which the award will have been given by an employee’s peers, which will increase buy-in 100 fold.


Use a clear role structure

Though health and safety is everybody’s responsibility, one of the most powerful ways to improve health and safety is to ensure everybody has a clear role and that they do not perform tasks beyond their competencies. A responsibility assignment (or RACI) matrix may help with this. This matrix helps to designate roles within a task, or during a process of change management. If you use this, it means that everyone will know their roles and responsibilities, and therefore everyone is accountable. This means that health and safety in the workplace will undoubtedly improve.

The RACI matrix means that accidents will be reduced due to the fact that employees will only complete jobs that are assigned to them, and that only those competent to perform a task will do so. This model is particularly useful in those industries that may traditionally be a little more dangerous than the average, e.g. construction, as it increases communication between staff on their roles.  Using strategies like the RACI matrix mean that health and safety will undoubtedly improve. This is even more true of a decentralised workplace, in which there is not necessarily a top tier of management to assign roles, and therefore democracy rules.

Sometimes, employees get the impression that health and safety is ‘not their job’, or that health and safety policies are outside of their remit. This is why a decentralised workplace may even facilitate improved health and safety performance. This is because, in a company in which democratic accountability rules, every person who works for the company has a part to play in putting health and safety at the top of the agenda. Though the above is not an exhaustive list on how to improve health and safety for decentralised companies, putting it into practice will surely have a profound impact.