QHSE is everyone's business, especially HR's

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A comprehensive occupational health and safety (OHS) policy requires the involvement of players at all levels of the organisation. The HR department plays a particularly important role in integrating prevention issues.  However, it cannot assume this role alone. On the other hand, it can rely on a key player in the company: the QHSE department. 


So how can the QHSE department help the HR department to succeed in its missions?  

The Covid-19 health crisis has led HR departments to rethink their organisation: reinforcing the precautionary principle, handling remote work and management situations, designing new office/workshop layouts and, above all, maintaining the workforce within the company. 


This organisational change has led the HR department to show agility. There are many challenges ahead with the return to on-site work and an economic context that is likely to become tighter in many sectors. Now is the time to anticipate the consequences of the crisis. The support of the QHSE department can be a real help in providing reliable health and safety indicators and modernising certain processes.


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HR department: What are your Occupational Health and Safety missions?


The HR department carries out several tasks related to OHS within the organisation: compliance with labour law obligations, training/accreditation, management of the Single Occupational Hazard Assessment Document and occupational health and safety, development of the employer brand, etc...


Maintaining employees’ health and safety


The main task of the HR department is to ensure that the employer's obligations towards his employees are respected: indeed, the head of the establishment has several obligations in terms of prevention


From a regulatory point of view, the HR department must therefore rely on various tools, in particular the Single Occupational Risk Assessment Document, with the aim of listing all the risks that may arise within the structure. In many organisations, this Single Occupational Hazard Assessment Document is sometimes neglected, sitting on the shelf, whereas it should be updated on a regular basis (for example, when new risks linked to Covid-19 are integrated). 


The office-base (or even paper-based!) format, does not help. However, online applications (such as BlueKanGo) are taking the Single Occupational Hazard Assessment Document out of the dust, making it a genuine tool for the OHS approach by making it collaborative for the deployment of specific actions with the QHSE department. Let's take the example of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which account for most occupational illnesses. For this risk category, it will be necessary to define several actions in conjunction with the QHSE department to improve workstation postures (e.g. implementation of an ergonomic study of workstations).


Whether it is a question of analysing the risks identified in the Single Occupational Hazard Assessment Document or monitoring training/accreditation, the HR department sometimes has difficulty in making employees aware of health and safety issues. The main problem lies in the lack of knowledge of the business, which is very technical, and of the reality in the field. This is why the HR department can rely on the expertise of the QHSE department to identify the levers for action in terms of OHS and go beyond the purely legal framework.  


Developing the Employer Brand through CSR


The employer brand is an indicator of a company's attractiveness. Beyond the aspect of "attracting talent", it is also a means of building employee loyalty. It should be noted that the OHS policy has a direct impact on the employer brand. Indeed, candidates may be sensitive to criteria such as turnover or work accidents, often reported in the press or by word of mouth. A clearly displayed safety culture contributes to the employer brand. Many companies do not hesitate to communicate their results on social networks: number of days without work accidents for example. All OHS data can be reported to HR in real time using dedicated platforms (such as BlueKanGo). 


In order to create a positive image with candidates, the HR department should promote the company's culture as well as its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Indeed, according to the infographic published by the French agency LaSuperAgence, 72% of candidates who had a bad candidate experience shared this negative experience online or directly with someone. Today, some people no longer hesitate to challenge brands on social networks if they don't get a response to an interview, for example, just as they would if they had a complaint about a product/service. 


The new generations of candidates are increasingly sensitive to the notions of Quality of Life at Work (QWL) and the companies’ “purpose”. Employees are even prepared to change jobs and/or lower their salary expectations if a company's QWL arguments offer better benefits. This search for meaning is increasingly expected. Some large companies have recently announced that they want to become "mission-oriented companies" and thus clarify their usefulness to society. 


On these CSR and QWL aspects, the QHSE department can be very useful, particularly in the context of the extra-financial performance declaration on the environmental part or in carrying out surveys.


Ensuring training and knowledge transfer


Maintaining staff training/certification in relation to OHS is one of the main components of Human Resources. Indeed, the risks incurred are considerable for the company in the event of an electrical accident involving an employee whose certification has not been renewed! The same applies to staff training: some current subjects such as cyber risks must be addressed, particularly in remote working situations in connection with the health crisis. 


The HR department can count on the QHSE department, which has the business skills in OHS, to ensure that staff training is maintained in the field. The QHSE Manager can also write the content of the training material and the associated questionnaire(s).  


Another subject related to training is knowledge management. A real subject in some companies to ensure the dissemination of knowledge. An ISO 30401 standard was even published at the end of November 2018 by the ISO. The idea is to create knowledge sharing bases or mechanisms. Here too, the QHSE department, well versed in Electronic Document Management (EDM) tools, can prove to be a key support in ensuring this continuity of knowledge. 


Monitoring of occupational injuries and other socio-economic data


Several socio-economic analyses are defined on the basis of different social data such as age or seniority, correlated with data related to absenteeism or work accidents/occupational diseases. All of these surveys make it possible to pinpoint possible difficulties in order to measure their impact on the organisation's overall performance.


At the same time, the HR department must ensure that the socio-economic data and the figures relating to occupational accidents and diseases are communicated to the staff internally. The QHSE department can thus support the HR department in these communication actions, particularly on all aspects related to OHS. The QHSE Manager can share this information during safety meetings for example, or during any other daily/weekly debriefing with the teams. All of these actions can contribute to the reduction of the rate of accidents and injuries within the organisation.  


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How to optimise exchanges between the HR department and the QHSE department?


The HR department and the QHSE department are closely linked on many subjects. Thus, to facilitate pooling of actions, it may be useful to set up a common digital platform or at least some gateways. For example, the QHSE department can carry out its risk analysis associated with the Single Occupational Hazard Assessment Document in the field using digitised forms and automatically forward the data to the HR department. On this same platform, the QHSE Manager can access the list of personnel provided by the HR department and thus renew the training/certification of each employee. 


The HR and QHSE departments can optimise internal strategic decision-making. Indeed, by drawing common dashboards responding to these issues, they will be able to show the management department all the value of an OHS approach thanks to reliable indicators while ruling on the overall performance of the system.


HR and QHSE departments are very complementary in many respects. The digitisation of management processes should lead them to work together on common tools. This bodes well for companies that are sensitive to future CSR challenges.

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