Are you a good neighbour?
By Sheila Pantry, OBE
Most people like to think of themselves as a good neighbour, but the concept of being a good workplace neighbour takes on a different hue.
In 1996 Ireland's Health and Safety Authority (HSA) organised a pilot "Good Neighbour Scheme" to coincide with the European Health and Safety Week. Fifty large well organised companies, from a health and safety viewpoint, were invited to participate in the pilot scheme. Participating companies organised safety events during the Week to which they invited smaller firms associated with them, whether as suppliers, customers or neighbours. Events ranged from safety talks to First Aid demonstrations to a staff quiz on health and safety themes. Each of the "Good Neighbours" were presented by the Minister for Labour Affairs with a Certificate to mark their participation and appreciation of their efforts.
The success of this first Good Neighbour Scheme initiative encouraged more to join and in subsequent Health and Safety Weeks the number of companies involved increased to 125 then to 150 and the numbers continue to grow. This initiative involves large well organised companies promoting workplace health and safety among smaller companies with whom they may already enjoy a business relationship or those who may be located in close geographic proximity to the Good Neighbour. The HSA believe that health and safety is everybody's business and only through everyone's involvement and support can Irish workplaces will continue to be among the safest in the European Union.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) followed Ireland's lead and started the "good neighbour" scheme whereby large organisations share expertise and training with contractors and suppliers. From 1998 onwards HSE launched a series of Good Neighbour Forums around the country. Under the initiative, five of the biggest organisations in the North West set up a partnership offering health and safety expertise to their small contractors, suppliers and neighbouring businesses.
This was followed by the launch of a Good Neighbour Forum on Tyneside. Under the initiative, four of the North East region's biggest organisations and employers set up a partnership offering health and safety expertise to small and medium sized companies. The scheme brought together some of the large public and private organisations, sectors which generally have good records in health and safety matters, with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to share advice and good practice. The schemes continue to expand.
"Good neighbour" schemes make good sense with larger companies work with smaller ones, sharing health and safety information and expertise. Companies committed to achieving high standards of health and safety performance can exert influence over standards in all the businesses with which they come into contact, and the impact on contractors; suppliers; local businesses and the wider public is considerable when all are involved in the key principles for "good neighbourliness".
Examples of Good Neighbour initiatives have included: seminars and face-to-face discussion; training events; information; quizzes and offering health and safety expertise.
Looking at the major collection of references to the world's occupational health and safety information in the OSH-ROM CD-ROM which contain over 1.9 million records, the idea of Good Neighbour Initiatives sadly seem to have had little take-up. So now is the time for action, and wherever you are in the world begin your planning today for the start-up of a good Neighbour initiative in your locality.
The European Week for Safety and Health at Work to be held in October 2000 is aimed at organisations of all sizes and from across all employment sectors, and especially the small and medium sized companies, who often find it difficult to devote time to health and safety. But being health and safety conscious is cost effective because it leads to a more efficient workplace and ultimately increased production and profitability.
Extending the Good Neighbour Scheme involves everyone - new and young workers, experienced workers, managers and trainers. Use the idea to be proactive in workplace health and safety. Whether you are a small company or a large international company the message remains the same - GOOD SAFETY PAYS - POOR SAFETY COSTS. The only barrier to what can be done is lack of imagination.