Blog Posts

blog 41 - Keeping boards engaged with health and safety
July 6, 2022

Keeping boards engaged with health and safety

Keeping boards engaged with health and safety is important. Good governance, and ensuring the right practices and systems are in place is needed for a healthy, safe work environment. The board can influence management’s focus and push for the necessary changes that a company might need to improve its overall health and safety. Unfortunately, many boards are still unclear as to what their role is in health and safety.

This article looks at the crucial information that should be provided to keep boards engaged with health and safety.

To be involved effectively, a board must focus on getting the right information and metrics. When we talk about metrics, we are talking about two different forms of data collection:

Quantitative measurements - Quantitative measurements are all about numbers. Quantitative data can be analysing the results of surveys or the numerical outcomes of an action- like the number of injuries per year after an improvement is made for instance. The challenge with this type of data is that you must be confident that it is the correct data before making assumptions based on it.

Qualitative measurements - this focuses on results which are not numbers and is usually collected from talking to people about their opinions and experiences. This doesn’t give exact answers, instead, it allows you to get a ‘feel’ for how well something is going. It is not as exact but can provide results which you cannot always gain from just analysing Quantitative data.

Here are the five key things you need to keep boards engaged with health and safety:

1.Don’t focus on quantitative metrics alone

Many organisations have become overly focused on basic measures such as Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) and similar quantitative metrics. The focus can end up being on the number rather than on what the organisation could be doing to improve that number. Sadly, few boards are well informed about health and safety and use little other metrics than these quantitative accident rates.

Just as financial reporting provides essential information about financial performance (i.e. ‘profit and loss’ over a period) and financial position (i.e. ‘balance sheet’ at a point in time), health and safety reporting should provide essential information about performance (i.e. actions and outcomes over a period) and position (i.e. health and safety at a given point in time).

2.Focus on the issues

A component to this is getting boards to focus on issues, discuss their views and establish their position on issues such as critical risks to the organisation. These concepts will not be totally foreign to experienced board members as significant time and effort is generally put into understanding and managing other forms of risk. Just as a financial spreadsheet can be a meaningless mass of figures if you don’t have the ability to interpret them, the same is true with health and safety information.

3.Make sure they’re getting the right information

Boards need to review the information being reported by management and seriously ask – are we getting the information we need? This is where qualitative data comes in. Your board may have all the numbers on accidents and risks, but this should be balanced with important information coming from the management and their workers on the real experiences that are behind the numbers.

This may not be as simple as it sounds as this should be linked to key risks, and there is a tradeoff between large volumes of unhelpful data and not getting enough detail. As an example, lessons learnt from accident investigations and the resulting actions taken are far more important to a board rather than lengthy details about the accident itself.

4.Keep up to date with health and safety rules and regulations

Another valuable question, particularly as we are in a period of change is, are we up to date with the current situation in relation to health and safety expectations? It is important that a board is involved in meeting these requirements and aware of how the data they are being given fits into the current guidelines and regulations.

5.Find a good balance between input and outcomes

A board should be able to communicate what their organisation’s critical risks are and what initiatives are being worked on to manage these issues. They should know as much about what is being done to make health and safety effective within their organization (lead indicators), as what is going wrong or right with it (lag indicators). A major challenge and admittedly a difficult one for a board is looking for metrics including lead and lag indicators that will give a true picture of performance. The aim should be to get the right balance between the two.

At Avid Plus we believe engaging with directors and boards is crucial to effective health and safety.

Speak to us about how we can help you improve your health and safety practices.

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