You may or may not know that this is national anti-bullying week in the UK. Most people think that bullying is something that HR deal with, however, like stress, bullying is another hazard within the workplace that needs to be managed; in the same way as other workplace hazards such as slips and trips.
If a worker feels they’re being singled out for unfair treatment by a boss or colleague, they’re probably being bullied. Bullying can be described as unfair, offensive, intimidating or insulting behaviour intended to undermine, humiliate or injure someone.
There’s no comprehensive list of bullying behaviours and no one type of person who’s likely to be a bully.
Examples of bullying behaviour include:
Symptoms of bullying include:
As an Employer, you must make it clear to your team members that bullying behaviour is unacceptable. You should also ensure that you include the hazard of bullying within your Health and Safety Management System and Risk Management System.
I have listened with interest over the last few days about the enquiry into the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and if it could have been prevented. A Holyrood inquiry has concluded that the fault which caused it could not have been foreseen. I find this rather interesting to the say the least.
Health and safety law attempts to be fair by requiring you to be responsible for ‘reasonably foreseeable’ risks. As duty holders, you need to assess ‘reasonably foreseeable’ risks and put in place control measures to reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
According to the law, employers are not responsible for issues they can successfully argue as ‘not reasonably foreseeable’ but are responsible where reasonable foreseeability can be argued.
There are three simple elements to determine whether a risk is ‘reasonably foreseeable’ which are as follows:
Public/Common Knowledge: You are expected to foresee what the average person in the street would have foreseen, as that information is common knowledge. For example, could a member of the public have known that a crack in a truss under the southbound carriageway had occurred – Probably Not.
Technical/Industry Knowledge : If a health and safety issue is beyond general public knowledge, then the company is expected to have the same level of background knowledge as other companies working in the same industry. For example, could an employee responsible for the maintenance of the bridge be expected to know that a crack in a truss under the southbound carriageway had occurred – Probably as they are responsible for inspection and maintenance .
Expert Knowledge: Only if they’re an expert are they expected to have expert knowledge. For example, could a specialist structural engineer and surveyor reasonably expect a crack in a truss under the southbound carriageway to occur – Probably as they know that this is a potential weak point.
The outcome of this is that employers are not responsible for issues they would not have ‘reasonably foreseen’, but they are definitely responsible where ‘reasonable foreseeability’ can be argued and in the case of the closure of the Forth Road Bridge it was entirely foreseeable that the type of crack could occur and that cutback in maintenance could and did increase the likelihood of risk of cracks and deterioration of the condition and structure of the bridge.
This is another example of government bodies having a different and frankly incorrect interpretation of the law. I highly recommend that governments consider employing the services of professional that understand legal aspects and in this case understand the concept of what is unforeseeable.