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False economy of cutting safety training.

False economy of cutting safety training

Companies of all shapes and sizes are looking for ways to save money. The danger is that the old saying "Penny wise pound foolish" might come back to bite them. Take safety training, for instance. Opting not to send employees on safety training courses might save a load of cash, but any accidents resulting from their ignorance might cost the company dearly.

The UK transport and logistics sector has been accused of giving road safety a lower priority than it might have done when economic times weren’t so difficult. That’s not an accusation that can be made against Suckling Transport, which operates 63 petroleum tankers in Britain, delivering around two billion litres of flammable liquid a year. It is a company with an impressive collection of safety awards and in 2008 it became a signatory to the European Road Safety Charter, identifying measures it intended to take to fulfil its commitment to reduce road fatalities.

Its "Zero Incident Project" is based on a four-phase approach, which puts driver training at the heart of its campaign. The approach is to:

  • Interrogate and audit safety systems, policies and procedures.
  • Identify technological developments and other improvements that could reduce accidents.
  • Improve near-miss and potential incident reporting by the workforce.
  • Improve journey management controls and driver training arrangements.

In the August 2012 issue of Logistics and Transport Focus, Managing director Peter Larner says that improving road safety will not lead to higher costs, but to cost reduction. With little effort and no investment, he says, it is possible to reduce insurance premiums, cut downtime, and improve driver morale and attendance, simply by putting in place procedures to improve safety.

Staff formed focus groups and conducted cold-case reviews of past accidents, enlisting the help of suppliers to identify any new technology that could have prevented those incidents. Because every accident, near-miss, or potential incident is an opportunity to improve safety, drivers were encouraged to produce reports to identify risks before accidents occurred.

You don’t need to be a safety expert to know that, when driving long distances, having a break is an obvious way of increasing the chances of a safe journey. But if you stop at a motorway service area which has high prices, poor-quality food and poor service you are likely to get back behind the steering wheel in a bad, rather than relaxed, mood. The UK’s service areas in general haven’t enjoyed a reputation for excellence. Their operators might also be reminded of the "penny wise, pound foolish" saying because a poor reputation is likely to lead to reduces takings.

In the September 2012 issue of Quality World, Janet Uttley says research carried out in 2010 found that such poor quality was costing motorway services millions of pounds in lost revenue, with drivers preferring not to make stops on their journeys.

However, they are getting better - and that's official. The latest results of VisitEngland's motorway service area star-ratings scheme show that widespread investment in infrastructure and staff training is improving the customer experience across the country. Earlier this year, the national tourist board revealed a 19 per cent increase in the number of four-star ratings compared with 2010.

The operators are pleased with this success story. Rod McKie, chief executive of Welcome Break, says: "Without doubt, quality equals sales equals profit, and nowhere is this more true than at motorway services where all operators have massively improved their standard of operation over the last 10 years. VisitEngland's quality scheme gives us a good benchmark on how to improve our global standards and, coupled with our individual audits from companies such as Starbucks, they can only help us improve our product even further."

Drivers aren’t the only people who spend an awful lot of their working life sitting down. So spare a thought for the office worker whose health can be at risk because of a lack of physical activity. In the August 2012 issue of The RoSPA Occupational Safety   Health Journal, Nick Cook reports that assistance has come from a University College London research team who are helping architects to create "active buildings" designed to promote physical activity in small and subtle ways. So, if employees find they have to walk a greater distance from their workstations to the computer printers in future, they’ll know it’s for the sake of their health.