Why your employees are the key in keeping your employees safe

For this post I’m stealing the famous phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. The same is true of workplace health and safety – a risk assessment alone isn’t going to work, you need your team.

 

For the past 8 years, I’ve been the Operations Director for an adventure company that builds and operates zip line tours in India and Kenya. In this position I am responsible for the safety of my team, the public, and the tens of thousands of zippers we receive every year.

I also faced a particular challenge; our head office is 160km from our closest zip tour site, the furthest is on another continent.

 

Training doesn’t work if your system is wrong

First, I set out to cover every base, assess every risk, write the most comprehensive risk assessment. I then poured over our standard operating procedures, created beautiful training manuals, and wrote detailed monthly checklists and assessments. A huge amount of effort was spent training our team, and over time, our operation was running smoothly. Great, right?

I forgot one crucial fact: Things change.

Employees come and go, equipment suffers wear and tear, standards change, and we learn new techniques as we gain experience. It became clear; one man and his documents wasn’t going to cut it. It’s going to take a village to keep this operation safe.

 

A dynamic, evolving system

There were a number of challenges that had to be solved:

  • New risks and maintenance issues need to be reported to me by my team
  • Control measures need to be tasked to the right person, and tracked so they don’t get forgotten
  • Everyone needs to be kept up to date on new risks, immediate action, and new control measures
  • Once resolved, control measures need to find their way into the risk assessment
  • The system had to be simple

What we came up with continues to improve our operation every day.

We started out with a WhatsApp group called “Hazards”. All our staff had to do if they spotted something, anything, was WhatsApp the group. This had two benefits; 1) it doesn’t get much simpler, and this encouraged our staff to take part – it removed the barrier to entry that a complicated form would have created. 2) It instantly alerted the entire team.

Once reported it was over to our seniors, who completed a hazard report designed to guide them through all the elements of a risk assessment. I would then review it, make edits if necessary, and ensure everything gets done.

Finally, we had a simple folder with a “hazard matrix” – a simple table where staff could sign against the report reference number to say that they’ve read it. Once the control measures were implemented, we’d draw a line through the hazard matrix entry to inform all staff that it had been completed.

 

The final hurdle

You may have noticed that this system only solves 4 out of the 5 objectives; all these new control measures still had to find their way into our risk assessments.

Currently, at the end of each year, I gather together all reports and set about updating our documents. Each location has a risk assessment – a word document – which comprises of general policy, generic zip tour risks, and site specific risks. The thought of updating these documents ad-hoc makes me shudder, and I’m sure my staff appreciate not having to re-read and re-sign every time a change is made. The system is okay, but it could be better.

It just seemed like a massive duplication of effort. The reports were there, mitigated risks and all, and all I’m doing is sorting generic from site specific and copying the content across.

This is what lead me to create Risk Memo, which takes all of the above and turns it into an app. Risk and damage reporting, tasks and control measures, notifications and read receipts, it’s all covered. The features I’m most excited about, however, are inserting reports directly into a risk assessment, the ability to easily keep all my generic content in sync, and having my staff automatically notified and asked to sign whenever an edit has been made.

I’ll finally be able to focus on managing people, not paperwork.

 

If you have any questions about this system, the Risk Memo app, or any other solutions that have worked for you, feel free to comment below! Or you can contact me @RiskMemo on Facebook and twitter.

If you think Risk Memo might be right for your business, sign up here for early access!

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