How going digital revolutionised Islington Council’s health and safety department
Islington Council’s health and safety department had a paper-based culture, but in the last six years it has used the latest technology to improve systems, maintain revenue streams, and fundamentally build on its commitment to keeping the community safe.
The London Borough of Islington represents a diverse community that incorporates both a thriving economy and high levels of poverty. It has 19,000 households across its locality, and provides a range of services, with each presenting an element of risk that must be managed effectively.
One the central historical focuses for the local authority is the education sector, and the council has been responsible for the health and safety management at 85 schools in the borough. Indeed, the school system is an important revenue source, and maintaining that is a main priority for the council.
But six years ago, the council was faced with a dilemma. Regulations concerning the outsourcing of health and safety services for schools were amended by the government, and educational establishments were no longer required to outsource health and safety to their local council. Instead, if they wished, they could employ the services of independent organisations.
Suddenly, the local authority found itself in an open and extremely competitive marketplace. Therefore, it had to enhance its services to schools in order to protect its new ‘client base’ – in this context, the schools.
The council realised it had to develop a comprehensive health and safety management service, in the hope it would reduce the need for schools to look for alternative solutions.
The first step for the dedicated health and safety services team was to establish the options available.
It had to be fit for the education sector, whilst also aligning with the council’s own practices, and therefore the local authority quickly decided that an off-the-shelf product was not sufficient and that a bespoke system was required.
Therefore, in 2009 the local authority decided to overhual its accident reporting by implementing a new information management system, which was provided by technology firm Alcumus.
The introduction of the bespoke system meant everyone responsible for carrying out health and safety management practices in schools, and at the local authority, could benefit from using a single platform that would be efficient in time and resource usage.
This type of solution was a real step up for the council. Prior to adopting a digital system, health and safety management had been conducted by paper-based methods, and with it the increased risk of manual reporting errors, costly delays, and key compliance issues being overlooked. Also, of course, the paper route was considerably more time-consuming.
The new system enabled users to report H&S incidents, log key audit data, and also grant easy access to a wealth of essential information & documents in one centrally-stored source.
Building on success
Following the successful installation of the new software solution, the local authority reviewed other areas of the business to identify where additional changes could bring further benefits.
With reassurance that the technology was tailored for purpose, and would support other commercial streams, the health and safety team set about implementing new bespoke modules throughout the council’s other information management systems, enhancing the platform and its application.
Six years later, the online solution is now at the heart of the council’s management of health and safety matters. It incorporates key information management areas, such as: incident reporting for the entire Council, tracking of important staff training, asbestos, vaccination requirements and eye tests, and secure storage for all the council’s health and safety documentation in a central location.
It also enables the council’s health and safety services team to manage all aspects of risk assessments, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) management, Alcumus ISOQAR certification, and compliance requirements – including Legionella, PAT testing and asbestos, in a more efficient way.
Additionally, the council uses the software to manage the bookings and scheduling of its fire safety training.
Donna Lewis, Corporate health & safety manager at Islington Council said: “Here at Islington Council, we are faced with a wide-variety of risks on a daily basis and require a robust management system to ensure that the health and safety processes we are responsible for run like clockwork.
“For us, the platform has radically improved our health and safety practices. The system has raised the profile of our work, saved valuable resource, and enables us to provide a more efficient service to the community we serve, including schools, businesses and residents.”
Toby South, Director at Alcumus Info Exchange, said: “Islington Council has made a significant commitment to improve its health and safety practices, and the team here at Alcumus has worked very closely with them over the years to develop a completely bespoke solution.”