Management of Change in Health and Safety

An effective process for the management of change is essential because change is inevitable in any organisation, whether it’s big or small. Whether it’s a shift in leadership, growth, product changes, or technical equipment upgrades, the impact of change can be dramatic. But often, the effect is difficult to appreciate. That’s why organisations need a logical and systematic way to manage changes.

Risks Posed by Change

During times of change, health and safety risks to workers can be significantly higher than during routine operations. That’s why workforce health and safety should be integral to managing organisational change. Unfortunately, the health and safety aspects of change are often seen as a separate set of issues within the change process. However, they must be part of the overall change planning to ensure effective implementation.

Even temporary changes to core processes can risk worker health and safety. That’s why it’s critical to recognise, define, and assess the risks associated with change before introducing it in a planned way.

Managing change is essential, especially when external factors like legislation, standards, new technologies or materials, or global events like pandemics come into play. Internal factors, such as changes in top management can also drive change. An effective process is necessary to identify and minimise the impact of hazards or risks that arise from change. The scope, complexity, and level of detail required for the management of change process should be proportionate to the risk.

Preparing for Change

Organisations can prepare for change by exploring potential developments and anticipating associated risks and opportunities. However, there are times when change happens rapidly, and there’s little time to comprehensively manage the change process. In such emergency situations, it’s advantageous to consider potential scenarios and work out some strategies that could be drawn upon. Dynamic risk assessment can then be relied upon to add detail when the time comes. This is often the case in emergencies, like those faced by emergency services, when the exact details are unknown until the time comes.