Measuring failures in business

Measuring failures in health and safety are never easy, but effective management and auditing will provide a solution.


Measurement is an essential step in every business management process to provide continual improvement.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) state:

The foundation of effective performance measurement is an effective planning system, which produces specifications and performance standards for the management arrangements and risk control systems.

The HSE continues to say:

If the measurement is not carried out correctly, the effectiveness of the health and safety management system is undermined and there is no reliable information to inform managers how well the health and safety risks are controlled.


The views from the boardroom
If I were to ask fellow managing directors or CEOs of small or large organisations today how they measured their companies’ performance, they would probably say:

We constantly measure profit, return on investment and market shares, that’s what makes our business a success.

So why is the answer finance-themed?

Profit, investment and shares measurement are generally positive in nature, they reflect achievement.


Let’s change the question slightly but to the same group:

How do you measure your companies’ health and safety performance?

A common opinion may be

by injury and ill health statistics


So let’s summarise:

General business performance is subject to a range of positive measures, for health and safety, it’s too often a negative measure, measuring failures. Too many business owners see health and safety as a negative reflecting failure.


Are these business owners aware of the February 2016 sentencing council changes, which include 2 major new additions?

  1. Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risk to health and safety, and do not require proof that the offence… caused any actual harm!
  2. Having determined the offence category, the court is required to focus on the organisation’s annual turnover or equivalent to reach a starting point for the fine.

In the past year, there were more fines of £1m or more than in the previous 20 years; and the average fine per offence has increased by 102% according to last year’s HSE report covering the year to April, with this figure set to rise once a full year’s data is available.


I am speaking from experience, concentrate every effort on preventing harm and proving you really have done everything practicably possible.

Managing a cost of prosecution should not form part of your business model.


No single measure
Health and Safety differs from many areas of business because there is an absence of an outcome, i.e. profit.

A common perception is a low injury or ill-health rate, even over a period of years seems to be an acceptable statistic. I do find this a really despondent view, thinking organisations only recognise the importance of managing health and safety when things go wrong.

Again using an HSE quote:

Organisations need to recognise that there is no single reliable measure of health and safety performance. What is required is a ‘basket’ of measures or a ‘balanced scorecard’, providing information on a range of health and safety activities.

So does your organisation have a low probability of accidents and therefore you feel does not need to include health and safety management or measured auditing? and how is your company managing a ‘basket’ of requirements?


A company with low statistic’s or a low outcome has no guarantee that risks are being controlled.

This is particularly true in organisations where there is a low probability of accidents but where major hazards are present. Deceptive indicators could be as follows:

  • Luck, rather than suitable health and safety management.
  • Complacency.
  • Injury statistics reflect outcomes not causes
  • There first must have been a failure, i.e. injury or ill health, in order to get a data point.

You may feel there are many other deceptive indicators, the HSE certainly do.


Has your business not yet had to deal with an injury or fatality because of luck or complacency?

I truly hope it’s because you have a systematic management team supported by senior leaders and a fully auditable and holistic health and safety management framework?

The HSE document “HSG 65 managing for health and safety” details how a framework for managing health and safety is not only essential but forms part of your legal requirement.


Do you need to do anything?
If your organisation can prove your health and safety management system has an overall coherence in approach so that individual activities are aligned within the overall company performance (a full ‘basket’ of health and safety systems), then you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law.

If you are honest though, your answer may be

Yes I do and quickly


Need instant help or simply measure performance?

Here are 3 main areas of focus:

For the individual:

  • Ensure competency
  • Increase attitudes toward health and safety
  • Increase risk perceptions
  • Reduce skills decay
  • Large amounts of paperwork doesn’t really help
  • It’s health and safety, not just safety.

For your organisation:

  • Create a health and safety culture
  • Implement leadership
  • Maximise resource
  • Communicate
  • Evidence shows you have done it

Work activity:

  • Pre-work knowledge
  • Workloads are managed
  • Safe system of work
  • Procedures in place and adhered to
  • Auditing
  • The environment

Remember: The Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law.

Directors, senior managers, line managers, supervisors, health and safety professionals all have particular responsibilities in health and safety performance. They each need information appropriate to their position and responsibilities within the health and safety management system.

The HSE state:

The health and safety culture of an organisation is an important factor in ensuring the effectiveness of risk control. The health and safety management system is an important influence on the safety culture, which in turn impacts on the effectiveness of the health and safety management system


Every business can always improve if they really want to…

To ensure every business owner is doing everything practicably possible to prevent harm is easily achievable. To eradicate all workplace accidents is not then impossible but an achievable goal.


How can Safety PAL help

The HSE (health and safety executive) statements detail ‘no single answer’ ‘businesses need a ‘basket’ of solutions.

Safety PAL goes even further, not only can we provide a basket of modules (people, organisations and jobs) to successfully manage your business’s health and safety, we ‘LINK THEM ALL’

Move the agenda of ‘health and safety’ to the top of your monthly meeting, measure health and safety as a positive exercise, be proud of your success, promote your company as a company who really does care and protect your business from increasing fines.



Here at Safety PAL, you don’t just subscribe to our unique health and safety solution, you always have access to support from our professional team of representatives.

I really do enjoy writing articles that help, simplify and even improve health and safety in your business. If there is something specific you want to ask, please feel free to contact me.


Founder and Managing Director of Safety PAL

Karl Spencer

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