• International Workplace
  • 20 June 2017

Paper-based health and safety policies: a cause of increasing fines?

Relying on traditional paper-based health and safety policies, which can be easily lost or damaged, is one of the key reasons why employees are failing to comply with regulations, according to research from WorkMobile on The Future of Health and Safety. The research finds that a large proportion of businesses in the UK (65%) are failing to provide their staff with any health and safety guidance – namely an operations manual or an employee handbook that sets out the company’s health and safety policies – at all, despite it being required by law for all companies with five or more employees.   

Even when workers are provided with written health and safety guidance, the information isn’t sufficient enough to fully explain the company’s procedures or the risks of the job, the research finds. As a result, many workers have a lack of knowledge when it comes to operating safely or dealing with incidents when they occur.

Paper-based policies can be time-consuming and costly to update and distribute to all employees when new legislation comes out.

“As with many UK laws, health and safety legislation can be subject to various changes and amendments to ensure they remain relevant to today’s society – yet company manuals are not being revised as often as they should be to keep them up-to-date,” the report states.

“Although it is the duty of the employer to keep staff members safe, workers must also take responsibility for their own welfare and follow the rules that have been put in place. It’s therefore concerning to see that almost half of employees (43%) are failing to read the health and safety policies and procedures, even when their employer has supplied them.

“What’s even more worrying to see is that almost a fifth (17%) of employees admit they have put themselves at risk by not following the procedures correctly or failing to read the health and safety information. This could cause a serious compliance headache for businesses if an incident was to occur.”

Technology can play a huge part in helping businesses become more health and safety compliant, the research finds. Rather than relying on paper-based employee handbooks or operations manuals, there are solutions available that can allow employers to host their health and safety policies on a digital platform.

“With a digital health and safety manual, information can be updated quickly and easily on a simple online form and then instantly sent via the cloud to every employee in the business. This helps to save time and money as it completely removes the need to print and manage the distribution of physical documents. It also ensures compliance as teams will always have access to up-to-date information, and there is no chance of the documents being misplaced.”

The research found that:

  • 65% of employees haven’t been supplied with an operations manual on starting their job.
  • Of those who work in hazardous or high-risk roles, almost half (48%) have not read their operations manual, whereas 60% of those who work in low-risk roles have read their manual.
  • 17% of employees have put themselves at risk by not following their manual correctly or failing to read it.
  • A fifth of workers (20%) have no idea how to report a hazard.
  • More than half (54%) of male respondents said they worked in a hazardous role, yet despite being exposed to more risks, a worrying 61% haven’t received an operations manual.
  • 27% of 18- to 34-year-olds confessed to putting themselves at risk by not following procedures correctly, while only 8% of 45- to 64-year-olds admitted putting themselves at risk by not following procedures.