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What does a safety first approach really mean for a vehicle dismantling business?

Safety always has to come first, right? Every business knows this and yet many only pay lip-service to it, resulting in companies falling short of what is legally required. If someone were to ask you what does safety first mean, how would you respond? Most people think they know what the term means but beyond ensuring its the first item on the agenda in a meeting, they are unable to define what it looks like. Safety first is more than just zero accidents and no lost work time incidents (LTIs). Even organisations with a poor record of reporting accidents have a good incident record on paper.


From a moral standpoint we should care about safety, but the difference between a company that truly believes in safety first and those who don't is clear to see, even to an outsider. Let's illustrate this with a visual example - what does this work area say to you about this vehicle recycling business and its attitude towards safety?

Depollution Station
Depollution Station

Few businesses do safety extremely well, but those who do are typically industry leaders, with lots of resources and regularly share on social media what good safety looks like. Sadly, there are also a few businesses that do nothing at all when it comes to safety, and the sooner we weed out such organisations the better! The vast majority of businesses occupy what I refer to as the middle ground - doing what they think is required of them in regards to safety and no more. The reason why more businesses don't do better is simple, its cost - smaller organisations simply don't have deep pockets and therefore cannot go as far as larger organisations with more capital. So with limited resources available its important for business owners and leadership teams to regularly confirm that what they you do provide, not only meets the legal and moral requirement, but goes further and ensures a safety first approach within your organisation's activities.


So this article serves as a quality check for those vehicle recycling businesses who make up the middle ground and will aid those organisations in verifying how effective their safety first approach really is.


FACT ONE: Most accidents typically occur when operating equipment that is unfamiliar or defective, when staff haven't been properly trained, or when operators are exploiting shortcuts in safe work practices to save time and effort. When we say safety first, it needs to be rooted in the organisation's safety culture. The Safety Culture is the collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of all its employees within an organisation, and go to define a business's approach to creating and maintaining a safe environment.


So how do we know what good looks like? Work equipment will be in good working order, and there is regular maintenance and investment in new equipment. The work environment will be clean because staff take pride in their workspace and more importantly, operators will be trained and exposed to regular refreshers.

Another Depollution Station
Another Depollution Station

FACT TWO: We know training is important because it's the very first thing an investigating manager will look to evidence after a workplace accident or incident.


Knowing how to operate a new piece of equipment correctly can be daunting without proper instruction. The controls of one piece of depollution equipment might be completely different to another machine you have previously used, so this will warrant additional familiarisation training. Across the board, not enough importance is placed on the quality of the training being provided. For many businesses training has become a necessary health and safety tick box but we are forgetting about the effectiveness. Even for large businesses with lots of resources, the criticality of training in driving safety and productivity efficiencies can easily be forgotten.


A shiny new piece of equipment or software may speed up a task, however without effective training, those benefits cannot be realised.


FACT THREE: People find it hard to quantify the value of safety training - if a piece of equipment is bought and it increases the number of vehicles that can be depolluted in a single day, this is a tangible investment - the equipment gets the credit for the efficiency improvements, not the operators working the machinery. We need to readdress this, one does not coexist without the other. And one cannot deliver the benefits or gains without the other.


Sitting at the very core of a successful workplace safety culture is robust and regular training, and yet few fully appreciate how valuable this really is. It has the ability to cut costs, increase colleague happiness and grow engagement whilst keeping people safe. By contrast, poor training and a general lack of investment erodes the safety culture and can hack away at your reputation, leaving you with expensive legal cases and preventing you from achieving your true potential.

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