A Cautionary Tale about Health and Safety Compliance

Why do accidents sometimes happen even after all health and safety procedures have been carried out? Based on a true story, this cautionary tale illustrates how an accident can still take place even if it appears that all Health and Safety-related obligations have been fulfilled.

Organizing an Event with Health and Safety in Mind

Imagine your company owns a large stadium that hosts hundreds of large events every year, from rock concerts to exhibitions. At the moment, you’re organizing a three-day event with 2,500 stands in five halls attracting 27,000 visitors.

With so many stands that need to be built up and taken down within a short period of time, many exhibitors and contractors will be running around with power tools, tall ladders and scaffolding. Whilst events management is not regarded as a high risk industry compared to others, the potential for something to go wrong still exists.

In order to ensure the event is as safe as possible for all involved, you ask your main contractor to perform individual safety checks on all their workers and all the exhibitors.

To help with this task, the main contractor uses an online safety management system. This requires all exhibitors to submit risk assessments and method statements and to declare each of their workers is safe to work.

A few weeks before the show, emails are sent to the exhibitors with a link for them to upload their safety documents. Your main contractor’s safety management system checks who has submitted the documents and ticked the declarations. By the day before the event, everyone involved has been given the green light to work at your venue.

You’ve done all you could. Your main contractor has diligence and operates software that ensures all exhibitors are protected. The venue has been declared safe for all workers and visitors.

An Unforeseen Accident

At the end of the third day, something goes wrong in the frenzy of exhibitors disassembling 2,500 stands. One worker climbs to the top rung of a 2.3-metre stepladder, loses his footing and falls. He breaks his left collar bone and wrist and is taken to hospital by ambulance. He was lucky to avoid a serious head injury.

You, as the venue owner, and the main contractor are both notified of the accident. You schedule a meeting to review it.

Upon examining the evidence and testimonials, you quickly realise the worker had insufficient training for working at height. Furthermore, the exhibitor had not provided any competence training for him. In fact, the exhibitor had employed him just two days before the event.

You’re shocked by these findings and say to the main contractor: “You told me you’d performed individual competency tests, and checked all uploaded risk assessments and methods statements before allowing work to commence at my venue.”

The main contractor is equally stunned. After all, the safety management system gave them a green light, indicating they could proceed.

A Twist in the Tale

However, the safety management system only checked whether a document – any document – had been uploaded to the online system.

When you investigate, you find out that the supervisor of the worker who’d been injured had uploaded a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse as their method statement and risk assessment.

Was this a joke? Or maybe just a mistake? It would be as easy as sending the wrong email attachment.

The procedure had been followed, the software tools had been used, but nobody had checked the documents. Instead, they relied on the software’s automation.

Who Was at Fault?

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigated this incident. After a lengthy process and the submission of guilty pleas, heavy fines and court costs were incurred by:

  • the injured worker’s supervisor, who uploaded the wrong documents,
  • the company who employed the supervisor,
  • the main contractor,
  • the venue owner, who simply believed the main contractor was operating safely.

Everyone at every level was found responsible.

Is There a Different Way? How Can Such Accidents be Prevented?

A system that makes it impossible to proceed without all documents being checked could have prevented this unfortunate situation. If such a system had been used, the incorrect documents would have been discovered before the event began.

An investigation would have taken place and the worker’s lack of experience and training would have been discovered before the start of the event. He would not have been allowed to work there.

Therefore, the accident would have been prevented, the companies involved would not have faced penalties and the worker would not have been injured.

Author Bio

Karl Spencer is the founder and managing director of Your Safety PAL, a web-based health and safety management system that enables companies to verify that all the correct documentation has been submitted and uploaded before a project, job or event begins. Your Safety PAL also ensures that each worker has received adequate training and understood all the risks and hazards before starting work.

It encourages a holistic and positive health and safety culture within companies and industries by allowing all users to share relevant health and safety information directly with others. Your Safety PAL can be accessed through smartphones so workers can receive up-to-date information while they are working on-site and managers can access documentation wherever they are and easily carry out on-site health and safety audits.

Find out more and sign up for a free trialat www.yoursafetypal.com.