Managing Health and Safety Risk in The Public Sector

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Written by: alcumus
14th July

With public sector employment rising in 2022 to 5.74 million, largely due to the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic and ‘contracted out’ services, our latest blog looks at health and safety risk management and embracing best practice.

Prior to COVID-19, research found that the UK public sector was falling well behind the private sector when it comes to health and safety.

  • 54% of private sector companies conducted health and safety inspections on a monthly basis, compared to just 27% for the public sector
  • 68% of public sector employees said health and safety was a high priority, compared to 80% of private sector workers

While there is no recent research as we emerge post-pandemic, if the private sector has continued to do more to prioritise health and safety in the workplace, what can the public sector do to catch up?

With COVID-19 bringing front and centre the importance of protecting employees and promoting wellbeing, now is the time to re-think not only how to manage safety risk, but to build a winning safety culture in the months and years ahead.

Modernising health and safety

Implementing a robust structure and processes for EHSQ risk management in the public sector is not an easy undertaking. However, the financial and indirect costs of getting it wrong has the potential to impact credibility and reputation, morale and wellbeing of employees and retention rates.

The public sector in particular needs to keep pace with the increased complexities of managing health, safety and wellbeing, given that the Health and Safety Executive found that industries with ill-health rates statistically significantly higher than the rate for all industries are:

  • human health and social work
  • public administration / defence
  • education

At the same time, CIPD found in its Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 report that public sector organisations have the highest levels of absence.

Taking the necessary steps to build a safety conscious culture needs leadership and action. Policies alone are not enough. The senior team need to be fully engaged in delivering positive safety outcomes and involve team members to connect the workforce. This should also include developing training resources and training programmes so that employees embrace safety culture more readily and can maintain workplace safety

To take health and safety risk from reactive to proactive, businesses, local authorities, the non-profit sector and many other organisations are increasingly recognising the value of technology and data visibility to better manage risk and make more accurate decisions.

With more data insight and digital systems in place, both the public and private sectors can have one true view of risk, take positive action and drive constructive change.

Building a winning safety culture

This approach to modernising health and safety in the public sector is one of the reasons why local authority company Greener Ealing (GEL) decided to collaborate with Alcumus to build a winning safety culture.

As a new, standalone organisation founded in 2020 and serving more than 350,000 residents, GEL needed to implement effective systems quickly to support their employees and make sure they could deliver the service customers expected.

GEL was keen to make as many processes as possible digital, removing the need for time-consuming inefficient paperwork. They wanted employees to have what they needed to do their job safely and effectively at their fingertips.

By implementing these systems, GEL now has a robust risk management framework. Since July 2020, the number of risk-events being capture has risen significantly, giving them a much clearer idea of any risks.

Alcumus has also worked with Ceredigion County Council, Islington Council and Glasgow City Council to strengthen health and safety management and minimise risks.

Next steps

You can hear from Alcumus and Greener Ealing in their recent webinar (watch on-demand) and find out how Greener Ealing worked with Alcumus. Guest speakers include Sandra Hewey, HSEQ and training manager at Greener Ealing, Matt Rouse, SVP Commercial and Customer Success at Alcumus, Liam Wood, IOSH's Environmental and Waste Management Group committee member and host Kellie Mundell, Digital Editor, IOSH Magazine.

Digitally connecting your business – one platform, endless solutions.  Get further information on EHSQ digitisation and book a demo.