According to a report issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), toward the end of October 2012 there were 17,495 reported non-fatal injuries in the UK; an estimated 27,000 self-reported injuries, and an estimated 33,000 new cases of work-related ill health. It also calculated an estimated 1.8 million working days were lost due to self-reported work-related illness, and a further 651,000 due to self-reported work-related injury, which is equivalent to an average of 0.69 and 0.26 days per worker per year.
Although health and safety (H&S) incidents have decreased over the previous decade, figures are undoubtedly high and have impacted on people’s lives and wider organisational performance. As businesses do their best to ensure H&S targets are met and Loss Time Incident Rates are maintained, it is fair to say it is no easy feat.
Of course, there are several practical steps organisations can take to meet their goals. One particular approach we advocate is to develop a strong workforce management strategy that supports the broader H&S strategy. When properly implemented it can ensure the right people with the right skills are working in the right place at the right time, and that the organisation is meeting its legal obligations – especially those set by the European Working Time Directive.
While this ‘right people, right place, right time’ approach to managing a part of the H&S problem seems a straightforward and logical approach to take, not many organisations are using it as part of their armory. So how can they use workforce management (WFM) technologies to improve the H&S situation across their business?
The H&S management blur
To start with we think it’s important to focus on who is responsible for managing H&S. In our experience this can vary depending on the size and structure of the organisation, as well as the nature of the business (e.g. engineering firm versus general office environments). Occasionally this has meant there is confusion over the responsibility for managing and implementing ‘health and safety’.
Traditionally, H&S teams have been responsible for drafting and implementing H&S strategies and preventing any breaches from occurring. HR, on the other hand, has normally been responsible for collating any information off the back of the outcomes of the H&S strategy (e.g. accident rates) so that further management decisions can be made about ways to run the business more efficiently.
The key – however – is that regardless of the size and structure of the organisation, and who is responsible for the various HR/H&S roles, that accurate information about the state of the workforce is being collected, used and shared by all parties to make strong business decisions.
Typically a strong WFM strategy and use of the right technology enables businesses to do this, by helping to ensure the right people are located in the right place and for the right amount of time, and that they have the right skills. And, importantly, that they also meet legislation requirements.
Adhering to EU and government legislation
Any failure to record employee time and attendance incorrectly or adhere to EU and government legislation could be costly to employees and employers.
Take the recent John Lewis example. The organisation realised it had not calculated pay owed to staff working on Sundays and bank holidays correctly, and – as a consequence – it has decided to pay staff back any money that is owed to them, as well as any associated administration costs. The sum is approximately, £40m. The organisation’s Director of Personnel, Tracey Killen, has also been quoted as saying: “As soon as we established that we were not implementing the Working Time Regulations correctly, we worked quickly to make the repayments to our Partners in a way that is both fair and responsible."
While this isn’t a H&S example, it has been costly for John Lewis. And similar principles apply across the wider industry: imagine how this might work out from a H&S perspective within an organisation that is dependent on a sound H&S record. Aside from the financial ramifications if any legislation if breached, what if breaches cause serious injury or fatalities? This makes it even more critical for HR and H&S managers to have crystal-clear visibility of the state of their workforce from a ‘time and attendance’ perspective.
Across the UK and Europe there are several legislations and directives that need to be adhered to including the European Working Time Directive, Working Time Regulations, and the 2007 Road Transport Working Time Regulations – all of which have set stringent requirements in place to protect staff and businesses.
With the right WFM solution, adhering to these is straightforward as the technologies typically allow businesses to set rules and alerts against staff and time worked so that businesses can avoid any serious consequences.
Creating a strong H&S-focused workforce management strategy
If businesses intend to use WFM technologies as part of their armoury to improve H&S, they should consider the following factors:
- Automation is key – traditionally people used Microsoft Excel to record information. While it is a powerful spreadsheet application, it is not a workforce management system and is very limited in offering up any strategic planning information, which is where modern workforce management systems come into their own. They not only record information more efficiently, but can also automatically highlight any potential upcoming H&S issues to management teams through insightful reporting as and when they happen (for example alerts can be received when any legislation or directives are near to being breached).
- Understand your data strategy – most organisations believe they are recording the right type of data, but when the time comes to evaluate it they realise they aren’t. Therefore it is vital to ensure the right parameters are set and the right things are being measured and analysed. What you don’t want to do is computerize inefficiency.
- Implement a pilot project – when developing a workforce management strategy, trial it at one site and learn from the first implementation. Then apply it to other sites, but take into account that there may be be variations across sites. Understanding the variations will enable you to create a more structured and strategic workforce management strategy that takes into account these idiosyncrasies.
- Integration with HR systems and payroll – it is no longer good enough for technology systems to operate in siloes. Therefore it is vital to the success of the organisation that the systems can integrate and communicate with one another.
Workforce management technologies are not the panacea to solving H&S challenges. However, with the right strategy and technology partner in place, they can act as another safety layer that enables businesses to improve their H&S status and ultimately ensure that all stakeholders across the business are not only safe, but also happy.