Nobody would disagree with the view that running any kind of business is time consuming. Directors and managers have to satisfy a wide range of demands, from finding new customers to making sure that the wages get paid properly and on time. So, to deal with these continual issues many directors and managers resort to prioritizing their responses and then taking the problems in order of perceived urgency.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with this approach in general, but unfortunately it’s not foolproof. When items are prioritized then logically something has to go to the back of the queue, and if further issues arise which are deemed more important then the items at the back of the queue will stay there and will remain unresolved (and may even be forgotten).

That’s not a concern if the unresolved issue is really trivial, such as whether to buy a new office stapler, but what happens when the matter is actually serious – like maintaining effective health & safety management?

Health & safety is frequently regarded as some kind of optional “add on” rather than what it really is – a strict legal requirement. Hence it seems reasonable to put health & safety to the back of the queue, at the bottom of the “to do” list, rather than up near the top like (say) completing company tax returns on time. And, of course, the latter has to go near the top because everybody knows that paying tax is a legal requirement and heavy fines can be incurred for late payment.

Health & safety, on the other hand, isn’t a legal …. hang on a minute, yes it is! – and the penalties for non-compliance can be draconian!

There’s another argument why health & safety management should never be put at the back of the queue. If you keep putting it off, and then somebody is injured (or even killed) because your health & safety management system was defective, how are you going to explain your lack of action to their next of kin?

Are you going to look them in the eye and explain that the reason their loved one has been hospitalised/ crippled for life/ killed is because you hadn’t “got round” to meeting your legal health & safety obligations? Are you going to take the blame and face their anger?

Or are you going to wish fervently that you’d thought more about your people than you did about your sales figures?

Maybe you need to look again at your “to do” list and do some rearranging before it’s too late …