5 Common Health and Safety Pitfalls

20 years of SYT's parent company auditing H&S systems within Housing Associations has shown encouraging shifts in culture and governance. However, there remain a number of ‘common pitfalls’ which appear to affect even the most diligent of organisations. Here is our “Top 5”...


1. Risk Assessment – It is still common for risk assessments to be carried out by external consultants or by dedicated internal ‘risk assessors’. However, this goes against the Health & Safety Executive’s view that risks should be assessed by ‘the person who owns the risk’. This means that staff involvement is essential in the risk assessing process.

2. Assessment Reviews – Risk assessments (e.g. general, fire, Legionella, DSE, etc.) which are often years out of date but still referred to. Whilst this is a clear breach of the legal duty to ‘review’ risk assessments, more importantly it shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of assessments. Assessments should be used as ‘working tools’ - referred to regularly and updated as people, tasks and circumstances change.

3. Dedicated ‘Safety Persons’ – Depending upon the size of an organisation, they may have a qualified Safety Practitioner in place or simply a H&S ‘Administrator’. Irrespective of the safety management structure, the ‘safety person’ is often seen as the individual with sole responsibility for H&S. This is not the case. All staff have a responsibility to ensure the H&S of themselves and of others and all Management staff have particular safety related accountability by virtue of their positions. Remember: Individual Directors and Managers can now be held personally liable for safety failures which can be attributed to their acts or omissions.

4. Information, Instruction and Training – Safety training is now rolled out on a relatively high volume basis. However, this normally only includes ‘off the shelf’ standardised topics, as opposed to proper instruction/training that accurately reflects the needs of the trainee. Effective H&S training should be based on individual training needs analyses (TNA’s), with courses chosen to suit those needs. The training effectiveness should also be evaluated, reviewed and monitored.

5. Contractor Selection and Control – Many organisations demonstrate sound governance of their own personnel and operations but fall down in relation to selection, management and control of contractors and external service providers. Whilst certain regulations place specific duties on the organisation to properly select and appoint contractors (e.g. the CDM 2015 regulations), there also remains a more general duty to monitor the safety performance of all contractors. In practice, this will involve proper vetting of contractors; reviews of their proposed RAMS (risk assessments and method statements); checking of demonstrable competency requirements; and some form of on-site monitoring.

Hopefully these common pitfalls will give you some food for thought and help you avoid the mistakes which all too often result in poor governance at best, and accidents or injury at worst, across the housing sector.