How to effectively report potential health and safety risks at work?
Health and safety concerns often remain unreported because the workers feel like reporting is not important and they would be laughed at if they did go to their superiors, or because they don’t have the time or don’t know how to do it. However, every unreported concern may lead to accidents at work down the line, so below we’ll explain how and when to report potential health and safety risks that have been identified, as well as how the reports should be addressed.
When should health and safety concerns be reported?
Nearly getting hit by a door or a falling item, slipping on a wet floor or tripping in a dimly-lit area – it’s easy to wave off such near-miss situations as not worth reporting but in reality, these incidents could be a sign of a much bigger issue that could one day result in someone getting seriously injured at work. The same goes for anything that makes an employee feel unsafe.
Maybe a machine operator suddenly starts experiencing recurring back pain and casually mentions this to a co-worker or a new staff member has been spotted skipping steps in the health and safety procedure or not wearing their PPE – issues like these should be taken seriously and reported to make sure that there are no unaddressed hazards that could escalate later.
Once we have established that all health and safety concerns are worth reporting, the answer to the question of when to do it becomes clear – as soon as possible. Any delay in reporting increases the chances of unidentified health risks causing harm to your workers.
How to report potential health and safety risks
Workers are the ones who are most likely to have an accident at work, so they are those who will first experience the problem. Once a potential risk has been identified by a worker, they should:
- Report to their supervisor or line manager
- Report to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
- Warn their coworkers about the hazard
If all internal channels fail, the worker has the right to contact any of the relevant bodies that oversee health and safety listed on the Government website.
If you are in a supervisory or managerial role and you are responsible for the health and safety of the workers in your team, it is your responsibility to spot any potential hazards and take them up with the relevant members of senior management who can rectify the problem. Failure to do so could result in a personal lawsuit raised against you under Section 37 of the HSWA.
If a member of the management team identifies a workplace hazard, they should:
- Warn the people who might be affected
- Report the problem to the person who has the authority to rectify the situation
- Check if appropriate actions have been taken
As a person in a senior position within the organisation, you should follow up on any reports to ensure that the risk has been mitigated sufficiently.
Putting an effective reporting process in place
The question of how to report a potential hazard has a more technical side to it, as well. A worker may recognise a potential workplace hazard but they may not know how to formally report it. Should they have to speak to their manager in private, should they log their concerns in a system or should they perhaps fill an official paper-based report – those are things that should be clearly outlined in a reporting process established by the company’s leadership team.
To be effective the reporting process should be communicated to the entire organisation and people at all levels of the hierarchy should be aware of how to report their concerns and what to do once an issue has been raised. The situation where someone has a potentially dangerous incident at work but fails to report it because they don’t know how it should never occur and health and safety awareness is the key to that.
Also, the reporting process should be as simple and as easy as possible. If a worker has to fill in a lengthy official report on a paper form that they have to go out of their way to get their hands on, they would be a lot less likely to take the time off their busy day to do it. However, a risk management software solution, such as RiskMach, solves this problem by allowing people to log hazards on the spot, using a digital platform, accessible from any device, anywhere in the world.
RiskMach also facilitates the awareness step in the reporting process, as it immediately pings every relevant person within the business as soon as the issue is raised. Plus, all follow-up actions are communicated to the relevant people, completing the circle of workplace risk reporting.
What to do once a potential risk has been reported
As soon as a potential workplace risk has been identified and reported, it has to be investigated immediately. A reported concern can be grounds to assess your health and safety risk assessment and verify that your risk management strategy is effectively protecting your employees from sustaining harm at work. Carrying out a risk assessment is important for many reasons, from ensuring industry compliance all the way to preventing deadly accidents.
It is also important to communicate any actions you have taken to manage the risk to the people who could be affected by the potential hazard. This helps build trust between the management team and the workers, as it demonstrates that you are truly invested in ensuring the safety of your staff.
Reporting back is important to make the person who has reported the issue feel like the time they have invested in bringing up their concerns has been worth it. Overall, taking the appropriate action to follow up on reports helps build a positive safety culture in the business.
Always remember that explaining how and when to report potential health and safety risks that have been identified is crucial to engaging your workforce in the risk management process which brings you one step closer to achieving compliance.