operations-management

Question
You have recently taken on the role of team leader at a small removals company. The company
carries out both local and nationwide work, for private and commercial clients. They operate from
two sites – a small warehouse and compound (where the 7 removal vehicles of varying size are kept)
and a smaller office site (with 3 office workers) that is 2-miles away from the warehouse.
You carry out the role of health and safety advisor for both sites. In addition to this, you are
responsible for the day-to-day management of your team. The team consists of 7 drivers and 8
porters (who assist the drivers to move items of furniture). You deliver a short induction training
session to new workers, that involves a tour of both sites, health and safety information (including
first-aid and emergency arrangements) and information on relevant policies and procedures. You,
and one other person, are the only trained first-aiders. You carry out the role of first-aider for the
warehouse site and the other first-aider is based at the office site. Fully stocked first-aid boxes are
located at each site and the contents are replenished as required. Both you and the other first-aider
have completed a ‘first aid at work’ course and attend a one-day first-aid refresher course as
required.
To assist with the movement of vehicles, a safe system of work is in place that stipulates that drivers
must use a banksman when manoeuvring. Next to the compound is the warehouse, used for
temporary storage of customers’ furniture and other possessions. Although small, the warehouse is
well laid out with clearly marked pedestrian walkways, forklift truck routes and strong, three-storeyhigh racking. There is a large roller-shutter door giving clear, wide access to the warehouse. Drivers
and porters take pride in cleanliness and tidiness when carrying out work in the warehouse.
The company is very busy. All the vehicles are in use every day, the warehouse is at full capacity,
and there is pressure to complete jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. The manager, who
operates from the office site, visits clients and assesses their removal requirements, evaluating any
potential problems or issues to ensure correct allocation of resource and equipment. The
manager also visits the warehouse site each day to carry out an inspection, check on capacity levels,
and to speak directly with workers. The manager feels it is important to speak personally to each
worker regularly and to be kept up-to-date with any problems. The manager is also responsible for
the regular internal audit of management processes.
Although most of the drivers have been employed for many years, there has recently been a high
level of turnover for porters, who protested at working conditions but were never taken seriously.
Many of the existing porters are young and inexperienced, and several job positions remain vacant.
There has also been an increase in levels of short-term sickness absence for both drivers and
porters, which is consistent with reports of increased musculoskeletal disorders being diagnosed.
As the size of removal activities varies considerably (ranging from: a few small items, to the contents
of large houses, to office relocations) the number of people involved with each job also varies; this
could involve just a single driver or several vehicles and multiple porters. As both drivers and porters
are required to carry furniture and other large items, manual handling training is carried out annually
by an external training company. Each vehicle is equipped with a tail-lift (a powered lifting and
lowering platform at the rear of the vehicle) and carries equipment to assist with removal activities
(for example, sack-barrows and platform trolleys).
You have just returned from two week’s annual leave. During your regular weekly meeting with the
manager, they inform you that a porter has been hurt while you were on leave. While moving a piano
at a client’s house, the porter sustained a fractured ankle and has just been discharged from a stay in
hospital following surgery. The porter will be off work for several months. It is probable that there will
be enforcement action because of this accident. The manager tells you that they believe the young,
inexperienced porter was “messing around” as there are records describing the porter’s involvement
in previous near miss incidents. You are asked to carry out an investigation into the accident and
provide a report to ensure that lessons can be learned, and similar accidents can be avoided in
future. This will be the second accident in the last 3 months. The earlier accident was where a driver broke their wrist assisting a young porter with a heavy item of furniture, that resulted in an
improvement notice being issued. The injured driver also pursued a civil claim.
You speak to the relevant driver about the latest accident, and they maintain the young porter was
acting responsibly at the time. The driver explained that access to the client’s house was limited,
with a long, gravelled driveway that was too narrow for the large removal vehicle to negotiate. As a
result, items needed to be carried a significant distance along the drive to where the removal vehicle
was parked. Due to the gravelled driveway, the workers were unable to use a trolley to move the
large piano, and as a result it was a long and difficult job to carry it to the removal vehicle. The driver
felt that the job needed to be done differently, including more workers being allocated to this task.
However, when they had phoned the office to express their concerns, the manager told them to do
their best, as no one else was available to at that time. As a result, the workers felt pressurised
to continue with the task. They had managed to get the piano to the end of the drive when the porter
collapsed in pain. The driver used their personal mobile phone to call for an ambulance and the
porter was admitted to hospital. On informing the office of the accident, a second work crew were
redirected to the house to complete the removal.
The driver is quite angry about the accident. They tell you that they see frequent examples of where
management seem more concerned about getting the job done than they are with workers’ health
and safety. The driver has previously complained about not enough people being allocated to large
or difficult jobs. They do not think that management fully appreciate the difficulties workers
experience. They also believe that management have never actually carried out a removal and they
do not consult sufficiently with workers about jobs.
As part of your investigation, you analyse both the generic risk assessment and the safe system of
work for removals on domestic premises. You notice that both documents were produced five years
ago. You advise the manager that these documents need reviewing as a matter of urgency. The
manager asks for your assistance in reviewing these documents.
You also take the opportunity to bring to the manager’s attention the importance of prioritising health
and safety. You highlight the worrying trend of increased lost time of workers, an increase in recent
accidents, and the fact that subsequent investigations incur greater cost to the company, especially
as another civil claim is expected due to the latest accident.

Comment on the company’s health and safety morals.

Note: You should support your answer, where applicable, using relevant information from the scenario.

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