No such thing as a free lunch? Maybe. But Free Learning Events can transform your H&S strategy – here’s how!
by Duncan Davies
When you think of the word accident, it usually has negative connotations. Nobody wants to have an accident (obviously). However, forward thinking Health & Safety professionals recognise that there are some types of incident that we can learn from, and that will help make the workplace safer. Allow us to elaborate…
Nobody leaves their house in the morning intending to have an accident at work. And, fortunately the vast majority of us manage to get through a whole working day without incident. But most of us can recall someone who’s had a nasty accident, or even worse, at work. And for all you might not have an accident today, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll come close. These are the things we’re trying to spot.
We call these incidents “free learning events”, and this post covers why they’re crucial to the development of an organisation’s Health and Safety culture.
So, what’s a “free learning event”?
In a nutshell, free learning events are circumstances that occur in the workplace that could have caused an accident, but didn’t. They are also sometimes referred to as “safety observations” or “near misses”, or “close calls”.
We call them “free learning events” simply because they’re free of implication. Nobody was hurt, there are no claims to pay out, no fines to pay, no management time required to investigate and report back, and no HSE Fees for Intervention charges.
They give organisations a really valuable and under-appreciated opportunity to learn about how to make the workplace safer, identify trends and, crucially, to look to do something about it.
We like to think of it as turning a negative into a positive.
How can an organisation capture free learning events?
You could of course log these free learning events on a handwritten form, which many businesses today still do. For a lot of organisations, it’s a tick-boxing exercise, with data that’s logged once and not looked at again, and very little impact delivered as a result.
We believe there’s a better way.
Let’s face it, digital technology has touched pretty much every aspect of our personal and working lives. What’s been lacking for some time is a modern, proactive approach to digital reporting across Health and Safety. Most of the tools that are out there are clunky and too complicated to use. This is no longer the case, with modern, mobile-first systems now leading the way in terms of effective collation and processing of free learning events to drive real business improvements.
Employees can use smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs to complete a quick and simple digital form, and some systems will allow them to upload a picture, tag a location and provide supplementary information or documents. Everything a Health and Safety professional needs to effectively review the event, assign actions, track progress and crunch the data to better understand trends.
The whole process is transparently logged and accessible to whoever it needs to be, allowing feedback to be provided much faster. From an employee perspective, it shows an organisation is putting safety at the top of the agenda, even when it’s ‘just’ a free learning event, and positive cultural change can be made as a result.
The benefits of using technology for Health and Safety reporting
Data – and lots of it!
There are so many instances of free learning events, far more than real life accidents (thankfully!), allowing Health & Safety professionals to build up a much more comprehensive picture of risk within their business.
Technology that helps with this data collection, such as NotifyIt, will enable organisations to gather this much-needed insight.
Encouraging employee engagement
We believe that everyone in the organisation should be able to report a Health and Safety issue.
Reporting access for all, allows employees to tell management what is happening on the ground, ensuring that safety becomes everyone’s business, whilst empowering team members to take accountability for their own Health and Safety, their colleagues’, and the safety of the surroundings they work in.
A view of the bigger picture
This benefit is twofold.
Firstly, free learning events can give an insight into staff engagement. They provide managers with an indication of how engaged employees really are with Health and Safety practices and procedures. It can help establish training needs or updates to tools, surroundings and even workwear, depending on the nature of the free learning event.
Second, it helps an organisation be proactive, mitigating risks before they become a real problem.
Organisations that only react to accidents or injuries are missing out on a valuable opportunity to use free learning events to focus their resources in a more effective way and prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.
Efficiency – every business’ favourite word
A good software platform can collect data in an efficient way. It can intelligently organise the data by labels such as date, location, employee, work area, type of event, and potential outcome (such as injury, damage or fatality).
Doing this through a paper-based system takes much longer and is costlier because of the amount of administrative work required, so naturally, a digital approach would always be our recommendation.
And there’s more…
Other benefits to your organisation include a reduction in Lost Time Incidents, better targeting, a more efficient use of resources, quicker visibility no matter where the events take place, and faster closure of corrective actions.
If increased visibility, understanding and proactivity sounds like something you’re keen to explore, get in touch with usfor more information and a demo of our platform.
Over 2.2 million workers die every year around the globe due to workplace accidents. As part of our #SafetyRevolution, we’ve launched a free–forever app and we’re on a mission to get the same number using Notify by 2020. The more near-misses captured, the more opportunity for businesses to make their workplaces safer for staff.
This post was produced in collaboration with our partners at ACJ Risk Solutions Ltd, an independent provider of advanced solutions to help businesses improve their Health and Safety processes. For more information, contact Jim Smith by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.