With mutual goals to protect both an organisation’s employees and its reputation, it makes good sense for HR and safety professionals to work closely. Matthew Elson, SHE Software's CEO, looks at the common ground between the two functions and how technology can help cement relationships.
It often surprises me that so few organisations’ HR and health and safety (H&S) professionals work closely together.
Several recent updates to government regulations have affected not only health and safety professionals, but HR teams, too. GDPR requirements, for example, affect everyone who is responsible for protecting personal data such as employee records. Too many organisations still manage safety activities using insecure paper or spreadsheet-driven processes, which can result in potentially serious data security issues.
In addition, actions such as the introduction of the Health and Safety Executive’s fee for intervention (FFI) and the recently updated sentencing guidelines – which have seen severe punishments handed out to organisations and individuals – mean that good communication between HR and safety functions to ensure compliance is more important than ever.
In this rapidly changing regulatory landscape, it’s vital to ensure that everyone has clear sight of what’s required to fulfil their responsibilities. But, as any HR professional will tell you, there are several major challenges – from organisational complexity to missing review dates.
Organisational complexity is a particular issue in larger organisations, especially where employees are spread over multiple locations. Too often teams evolve their own methods and systems for managing and recording H&S information and events, which can leave centralised HR and safety teams out of the loop.
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This presents a significant risk when it comes to ensuring compliance with organisation-wide systems and processes, as well as making it difficult to gather and record quality data on any issues or incidents – something that is essential to both HR and H&S teams.
Even the smallest organisation can suffer problems if H&S reporting, recording and tracking isn’t managed efficiently. If there are no sign-off systems in place, or regular review dates are ignored, issues can go unnoticed and left to fester until they result in incidents.
What’s more, having to accommodate a plethora of methods and systems creates an enormous administrative burden for already over-stretched HR and H&S teams.
The ability to carry out such H&S tasks simply and consistently can make an enormous difference to the success of an organisation: issues can be identified and rectified; ‘lessons learned’ developed into good practice; and, over time, a culture of continuous improvement develops.
To collaborate successfully, HR professionals and H&S teams need to support each other in taking a proactive approach to safety, compliance, good practice and visibility.
Involving employees in defining H&S activities increases engagement and changes the perception of compliance: processes stop being ‘box-ticking exercises’ and evolve into practical considerations that workers absorb into their day-to-day responsibilities, further easing the HR burden.
Technology has recently begun to revolutionise H&S management by enabling teams to automate processes, improve employee engagement, and gather and analyse better-quality data. But how can innovative technology help HR professionals?
Health and safety management software solutions help organisations to record, track, manage and report on safety by giving every employee a ‘health and safety voice’, and can integrate with core platforms, such as CIPHR’s HR and recruitment solution.
Many modern solutions allow data to be shared and captured on the go, 24/7, online or offline via tablets and mobile devices, so every employee is involved in creating a safety-conscious culture – whether they work at a desk, on the shop floor, on the road, or remotely. Having all the data in a single place makes reporting simpler and more accurate.
Of course, there’s more to ensuring compliance and protecting your workforce than software alone, but it is a critical step in the right direction that underpins other advances. In an environment in which HR teams are realising the benefits of working ever more closely with their health and safety colleagues, choosing the right H&S software helps to cement those relationships and ensure compliance by delivering the peace of mind that total visibility can bring.
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