Suffering from blue tape in your safety processes, or have no idea what it is? This article will break the concept down for you *and* show you how to avoid it.
First of all, what do we mean by 'Blue Tape'?
The term “red tape” has long been used to describe the excessive bureaucracy needed to comply with overly restrictive laws. More recently the term “blue tape” has been used to describe rules imposed not by Government regulation, but by one business on another.
The HSE report “Understanding the impact of business to business health and safety ‘rules’” (2019) explored the extent and impact of health and safety blue tape on UK businesses. The report was based on a survey of 2000 businesses, along with interviews with duty holders and inspectors.
The good news is that seven out of ten businesses felt that the safety policies and procedures they have in place are “sensible and proportionate, relative to the risks within their business.” So what do the other 30% need to do differently?
Here are 4 tips on how to overcome blue tape:
1. Choose your consultant carefully
Look for a consultant that will work onsite with you to identify gaps and to fill those gaps using your own people. Instead of generic documents they can tailor templates for risk assessments and site inspections, and train your staff to use these. Having to pay a consultant every time a change to a process is made will soon lead to out-of-date procedures. You need to stay in charge of health and safety in your business by having all the information to hand – not filtered through a consultant.
2. Keep the insurer happy
While the HSE criticised some insurers for disproportionate requirements, it praised one large commercial insurer who has been willing “to dispense with paperwork risk assessments where other methods can provide effective assurance that risks are well-managed.” Expect to see greater acceptance by insurers and regulators of shared cloud-stored risk assessments, and other technology-based ways of identifying and managing risks.
Paper checklists stored in box files can be replaced with automated audit schedules, where any exceptions are identified to a responsible person for action. Instead of mountains of paperwork in different places, accessible and structured online data will give the insurer reassurance that you are doing everything reasonable to manage safety. A dedicated safety audit software will let you store all templates in one location, track audit completion and view auditing trends across your business.
3. Suppliers - Don't rely on accreditation
Accreditation schemes have become standard in some industries, but the HSE is sceptical about their value. The report points out that “organisations should be able to demonstrate their approach to risk management without implementing a standard or being certified against it”. For small businesses and low-risk businesses, the HSE is clear “a formalised management system approach is not necessarily the most appropriate model.” Money spent on generating the “parallel” health and safety system paperwork to pass an audit could instead be spent on systems that genuinely improve health and safety management.
Another criticism of certification systems was that many are “too paper-based to pick up ineffective application of risk controls in practice.” Paper documents sitting in a folder (or even their Word equivalents on a server) will not make you safer; having live systems for managing and monitoring your risk controls will.
If you have no choice but to meet an accreditation scheme, having up-to-date information at your fingertips will make it more cost-effective to compile what is needed. If you are still questioning whether accreditation is appropriate for your business, why not download our whitepaper on the recently released ISO45001, where we take a look at the befits and potential pitfalls of the standard.
4. Clients - Vet your suppliers carefully
Consider what you need your contractors to do. If you want them to do a daily site check, will a policy document that confirms they do this reassure you? Would you be more confident if a time-stamped checklist arrived on your computer each morning, along with photos, proving they had carried out the process? Technology now provides options for better, cost-effective ways of managing health and safety. For example, having mobile safety apps in which you can perform both audits and hazard/ incident spotting in the field will give you access to accurate, real-time data.
Use technology to cut the blue tape you tie around your suppliers, and the results will benefit both sides.