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HSE: Segregate for safety

21 January 2013

The importance of pedestrian segregation was emphasised by the Health & Safety Executive at the recent SEMA Safety Conference.

The importance of pedestrian segregation was emphasised by the Health & Safety Executive at the recent SEMA Safety Conference

Andrew Wetters, senior policy advisor for the Workplace Transport Team at the Health & Safety Executive highlighted poor segregation practices in many warehouses as a major cause of injury at the Storage Equipment Manufacturer's Association (SEMA) Safety Conference.

"The warehouse has people and moving machinery working together, but they must be segregated. According to our figures 40% of the pedestrians struck in these work environments were hit by vehicles that simply should not have been in that area. Clearly a contributory factor to these accidents is the absence of, or inadequate provision of pedestrian segregation," explained Wetters.

The HSE advisor went on to say that taking one-time measures to counter threats is not enough. He cautioned against the practice or producing "pristine" risk assessment documents that are forgotten once completed. He said that inspectors look for "well-thumbed" documents that are clearly used on an ongoing basis.

"I want to emphasise the importance of leadership and momentum," he added. "It is important that employees feel they are being helped to work safely. When managers are seen to actively monitor safety practice, employees then view it as a high priority." Wetters also outlined the HSE's new Fee For Intervention (FFI) policy which is targeting companies that are known to have poor safety practices. Under the policy, the HSE will recover its costs from the offending company.

Another speaker at the conference, Elizabeth Rigby, solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, expanded on FFI, saying that companies would be liable for £124 per hour per health & safety officer, payable upon written notice of any breach, even if it does not result in a prosecution. The breach can be considerably less serious than that warranting a criminal case, said Rigby.

She also commented that cases brought under the Corporate Manslaughter Act had resulted in "surprisingly low" fines.

One case in point was that brought against JMW Farms in Northern Ireland, when a worker was killed when a unsecured bin fell off a forklift driven by a company director. The company was fined £187,500.

Showing leadership Echoing the earlier sentiments of the HSE, Nick Rayner, managing director of global supply chain at Unipart Logistics explained the importance at his company of leadership in health and safety.

"The management team must be seen on the floor, showing they take safety seriously. We want to change behaviour on the ground, getting people involved, not just preaching to them." Unipart has, for example, introduced workshops as well as training presentations to encourage active participation.

"We ask people to make a commitment on what they will do differently," explained Rayner. "We audit this commitment. It is not a disciplinary approach, but about changing habits." Continuing in this vein, Neil Sheehan, safety, health and environment manager at Asda said that he looked for passion and leadership in storage and warehouse safety partners, stating that "it's a given that they will have the required knowledge".

He added that Asda insisted that its partners should only use SEIRS (Storage Equipment Installers Registration Scheme) qualified staff on its site. This SEMA initiative has been proactive in the development of standards in industry for many years and covers safety standards in an environment where product design, manufacture and installation take place under the influence of increased legislation.

Feeling good about safety Providing a highlight at the conference was the effervescent presentation from Chris Woods of Mind Safety, which focused on human and psychological strategies to achieving better results in safety, as opposed to systemic or product based approaches.

"Companies are great at systems but they are not do good with people," said Woods. "Health and safety has negative connotations with people. People need to feel good about safety or they won't get it.

You need to look at the positive sides of safety." The Mind Safety approach is focused on changing behaviour in a meaningful and lasting way. Insights included a recognition of the flawed nature of short term memory, in other words minds tend to wander. Mind Safety says this means immediate corrective action should be a priority once an issue is spotted.

This entertaining and engaging presentation was a highlight in a very strong programme that delivered much food for thought for the many warehousing and logistics managers in attendance.