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The 4 'Cs' in Health and Safety

16 July 2015

Organising health and safety is often described as involving the 4 'Cs' by the HSE.  They are:


Control is about getting everyone to work together to achieve good health and safety performance.  It starts at the top of an organisation, by nominating someone to have overall accountability.

Responsibilities are then allocated to line managers.  Specialists are appointed to advise the line.
Safety only happens when people accept it as part of the job.  To achieve control

•    Responsibilities must be clearly laid out;
•    Responsibilities must be understood;
•    People with responsibilities must have necessary time and resources;
•    People must be held accountable.


Co-operation is achieved by allowing and encouraging everyone to participate in health and safety.  This generates ownership and understanding.  Also, it ensures knowledge and experience is built into solutions.

Participation can be achieved through safety representatives and committees.  However, everyone can be involved to some degree by inputting into and getting involved in decision making and problem solving.


Communication is much more than sending out messages and assuming people receive them.  Successful communication means that ‘receivers’ understand messages in the same as was meant by the ‘sender.’  

The effectiveness of communication will depend on how a message is formed, presented and transmitted.  Face-to-face communication is usually most effective because people have the chance to interact, asking questions and seeking clarification.  Direct communication can be achieved through:

•    Training, including induction and tool box talks;
•    Team briefings;
•    Formal and informal meetings;
•    Appraisal sessions.

Whilst written communication is often less reliable than face-to-face, it is still important.  Readability, legibility and availability will influence its effectiveness.  Options for written communication include:

•    Notice boards;
•    Newsletters;
•    Posters;
•    Competitions; 
•    Notes in wage slips.

A lot of communication takes place informally (for example one-to-one ‘chats’ or sending of emails) and it is quite common for these to have a greater influence (even if wrong) than messages from the boss (which are correct but may not be presented in a way employees respond to so well).


Competence is the ability of an individual or group to fulfil a role properly and safely.  It takes much more than training for someone to become competent, with experience having a significant influence.

The first stage in achieving competence is to clearly define the competence requirements.  Having done this it is possible to:

•    Recruit people with the appropriate aptitudes;
•    Deploy people to the most appropriate placements based on their knowledge and skills;
•    Identify training needs – where the competence held does not fully achieve the requirements;
•    Provide training and assessing to confirm the necessary competence has been achieved;
•    Assess competence and provide refresher training;
•    Make cover arrangements to ensure there are no competence gaps when individuals are absent.

An organisation may decide that it is better to engage another organisation to provide competent people. This is usually the case where an activity is considered to be outside of the organisation’s core business (e.g. catering, administrative, security) or where specialist skills or knowledge are required. However, care is required when ‘contracting out’ activities and all organisations involved have to understand that they share responsibility for safety and have to co-operate in managing risks.

You can read the full article by the HSE here. If you need any further support with any aspect of workplace safety, please call QSC Safety on 01332 294800

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