Two sides to every coin…
In our last blog post, we explored the worst case scenario of a fictitious accident suffered by ‘Rob’ and looked into the key drivers behind health and safety in the workplace – from a personal perspective of the individual suffering the accident and that person’s immediate family. In this post, we will examine the same incident from the viewpoint of the organisation. Take a look at the first post ‘Workplace Accidents – worst case scenario and drivers to health and safety’ for background information.
The Corporate Viewpoint
In order to complete the picture of this tragic ‘Worst Case Scenario’ workplace accident – having reviewed the personal viewpoint in last week’s blog – let’s look at this same scenario from the company’s point of view. This time however, we are going to focus on making this horrible incident go away as quickly as possible.
The Moral Drivers
A senior director grabs Rob’s direct line manager by the scruff of the neck (figuritively speaking!) and both of them go to see Rob, in hospital immediately after the accident. They sit beside the bed and take time to look everyone in the eye, observing the faces betraying their mixed emotions of anger and distress and duly utter a few words of sympathy: ‘We (the company) are terribly sorry that this has happened to you, Rob. We want you to know that this is unacceptable. We make you a solemn promise here today that we are going to do everything that is necessary to find out what went wrong on that fateful day. We plan to put measures in place to stop this accident from ever happening again. We will make sure that everyone in our company knows about this and the whole industry if need be. Once again I am very sorry for what has happened to you Rob.”
That is the moral box ticked.
The Legal Drivers
Well, the company might, and I stress might be prosecuted by the HSE or the local authority. Even if they are, the job of the HSE and local authority is not to close businesses down. The company is likely to receive a slap on the wrist, a fine and a telling off (2*).
From a civil defence viewpoint, Rob will be wheeled into a room to sit opposite a bank of the company’s solicitors. There, they will proceed, figuratively speaking, to pile cash onto the table in front of him, until they see Rob lick his lips and his pupils dilate. When Rob reaches out across the table to take the cash a piece of paper is slid to him. This will be Rob’s non-disclosure agreement, signing it will be an essential condition of the settlement. It means that he is only allowed to discuss the details of his accident, the company’s role, and conversations with staff with either a company solicitor, the company’s insurance provider or his own solicitor. What’s more, this non-disclosure agreement may go on to state that if he is found in breach of this gag order, then all the monies given to him will be rescinded, including what he has already spent, as well as receiving a fixed fine for breaching this. The company will have the right to sue for damages if this information makes its way into the public domain. That means that if he is down his local pub telling his woes to an old friend who happens to be one of those ‘keyboard warrior’ types and this friend decides to post an account of this on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media and they are connected to Rob digitally then it might cause more problems.
The Financial Drivers
Well we can reel off a list of costs the company will face following any accident. The way I think about it is, imagine opening the Health and Safety accident record book or financial account records, around the time of the accident there is a big, dark blemish, however, at the end of each financial year, the company gets to turn a new page to start a afresh. In contrast, the majority of us don’t get that luxury.
Lessons learnt from the Scenario
Any accident is going to affect you, the employee far more than any organisation that you work for, past, present and future. I find that these two perspectives allow us to create two separate arguments. 1 – the business point of view, how we can make a business case to senior management on why releasing Rob and his colleagues is time and money devoted to health and safety, well spent.
Secondly the personal argument, aimed at trying to convince an employee who categorically knows more about their job than anyone else, because they have been doing it, day in day out for the last 2 decades. We make a personal case by playing devil’s advocate with this employee, outlining how an accident can affect them, their friends and family as a result. If they were following the company’s rules to the letter then the company wouldn’t have a leg to stand on from a civil claim defence point of view. However the moment that we take a shortcut, don’t check a bit of kit over, don’t wear a piece of PPE, we are giving the company ammunition to use against us as demonstrated in this scenario; Rob can be partially or wholly held accountable for the injuries he has sustained as a result of his behaviour.
Now you can scale the severity of these injuries up or down, the outcome is the same. Your loved ones will be the ones who have to assume responsibility.