Archive | May, 2011

British Safety Council’s annual members’ survey

27 May

Good morning everyone. The British Safety Council’s annual members’ survey was launched on Wednesday. During the first 48 hours more than 200 organisations have completed this survey.

The survey asks a number of probing questions regarding the management of health and safety within organisations, from knowledge and attitudes towards risk, views on changes to the regulation, to public perceptions of health and safety and more.

This will be the first in a series of annual membership surveys which will track changes in these trends over time. The health and safety landscape in Great Britain has been undergoing considerable change.  We hope that this survey will provide a detailed insight into how our members are coping with and responding to this change. It will help us to better understand the issues of concern to your organisation and will enable us, the British Safety Council, to better represent your views.

The survey is open until 17 June and will take just a few minutes to complete. It can be accessed here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DJ3KMPS

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A new day, a new experience

24 May

Having become a qualified journalist five years ago, I always envisaged myself working for a magazine such as Heat or Vogue. I certainly never envisaged working on a health and safety magazine, but here I am five years later having been working for the British Safety Council for four years.

I definitely don’t claim to be a safety professional but I have learnt a hell of a lot about health and safety since being here and I even find myself thinking about everyday things from a health and safety perspective.

Walking past a construction site I now have a look to check the builders are working safely and they’re wearing the necessary PPE. My friends think I’m bonkers but it has become second nature to me.

And for the first time, I got to visit a construction site for myself this week as part of an article I’m writing. On arrival at the construction site in Vauxhall, I was taken through a safety induction before being kitted out with a hard hat, safety boots, gloves and safety glasses.

This was a new experience for me. I’m not really a ‘hat person’ as you can see from the photo, but it was good to see the company looking out for my safety. I was told no one was allowed on to site without the required equipment and I duly obliged realising these rules were obviously there for a reason. As we entered the site I was a little apprehensive as I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised.

I noticed how everyone was getting on with their job in a calm but efficient way…maybe it was because the site manager was around…but there was a good atmosphere and the positive safety culture on site was apparent.

What struck me the most was how tidy the site was. I had imagined tools and bits of timber lying around everywhere and having to watch my step, but it was virtually spotless. Obviously I was still careful to mind where I walked – sticking to the pedestrian walkways and holding the handrail as I walked up the steps.

But man these safety boots are hard to walk in! When I took them off and put my own shoes back on, the site manager I was with told me I’d get used to them if I wore them every day. I think I’ll take his word for it and stick to my little slip-on pumps.

I really enjoyed my visit and can check that off my list of interesting places to visit. I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to travel around the UK visiting our members; it is the favourite part of my job. I’ve been to various places to interview clients including a distribution warehouse, a manufacturing plant, a prison and now a construction site, and I find it really interesting learning about the health and safety of different industries.

If someone had told me five years ago I’d be on a construction site as part of an article I was writing, I’d have laughed and told them I had no interest in doing so, but I now look forward to my next assignment whether that be a laboratory, an offshore oil rig  or maybe a farm. Hopefully it will be somewhere I don’t have to wear a hat!

Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee Inquiry into health and safety in Scotland

24 May

The British Safety Council is very keen to hear the views of our members based or operating in Scotland to help inform our submission to the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee. To date over fifty organisations have accessed or completed our survey questionnaire. Although we still have to analyse the results early indications are that our members have strong views, for example, both for and against devolving health and safety to the Scottish Government and creating a separate HSE for Scotland. But there are many other questions that the inquiry addresses including the effectiveness of health and safety regulation in Scotland currently.

The survey can be accessed at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9GVYVRR.

All responses will remain confidential. The closing date for responses to the British Safety Council is 4 June 2011. We look forward to your involvement.

Too many regulations?

20 May

Good afternoon British Safety Council members, and others. Today, the Department for Work and Pensions issued a call for evidence for the Löfstedt Review, inviting views from all interested parties on the scope for reducing the burden of health and safety regulation on UK businesses. Announced by the Minister for Employment in March, the Löfstedt Review will consider the opportunity for combining, simplifying or reducing the approximately 200 health and safety regulations in this country.

The British Safety Council will be submitting evidence to the review, but first we want to know what our members feel. Next month we will launch an online survey and this is your opportunity to tell us what you think. These findings will support the evidence which we present to Professor Löfstedt.

The call for evidence is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011/lofstedt-review-cfe.shtml

All UK members will receive an email invitation in June so look out for this important opportunity…

Something we all need to mind

18 May

Mental health charity MIND recently released new research findings which revealed that work is currently more stressful than money worries, marriage and relationships and health issues. The survey of 2000 workers showed that 41% are stressed or very stressed.

The issue of stress and its effect on workers is not going to go away. The only trouble is that, according to the research, we’re not talking enough about it, and thus not dealing with it. So it will remain doing its damage to those silent sufferers.

This isn’t really surprising when you read that 1 in 4 respondents said they would be deemed less capable if they admitted to feeling stressed; and 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health issue to their boss had been sacked or forced out of their jobs. How would those outcomes relieve the stress being suffered?

“I’m feeling a bit stressed right now.”

“OK, we can do without you.”

It wouldn’t.

This is a terrible situation; obviously for the employee, but also for the employer in terms of losing a worker and the time and money involved in replacing them.

It’s normal to experience a little stress in our lives, and it often comes from those people and activities we love to do. Travelling is my favourite pastime and yet if you’ve ever had to conform to Easyjet’s baggage rules, you’ll know that there’s that moment of trying to force your suitcase into that space which can be quite stressful (Its fits! Honestly!). Stress can also energise us and mobilise our bodies so that we can cope better in difficult situations. Anyone who has to work to a strict deadline has probably experienced the surge of adrenalin as it creeps ever closer.

But if employers don’t start to manage workplace stress positively – ignoring the stigma and discrimination – they will lose out. Keeping a workforce healthy and safe not only has moral implications, but it also reduces absence costs and productivity losses. More importantly in my eyes, they won’t simply be one of those employers who washes their hands of workers who aren’t afraid to admit they need some professional support and guidance.

Workers don’t come on a conveyor belt and they should not be expected to act as if they do. Sometimes inexpensive measures can make all the difference: positive responses from line managers; or having workers aware of the symptoms so they can identify and understand the issues their colleagues are experiencing.

Even an open door and a listening ear could be enough to prevent stress escalating. This is surely the first step to make sure that workplace stress doesn’t sit and breed in silence.

It’s something we should all be mindful about.

An achievement from the archives

17 May

With our International Safety Awards banquet taking place on Friday, I thought it would be fitting to post this video from the 1960s of one of our members receiving the award.

Shale gas and ‘fracking’: disaster deferred?

16 May

Stories about shale gas and the method of its capture are popular topics in the press at the moment. Some oil and gas companies have announced that shale gas, which studies have found is in large quantities across the world, is a ‘green’ alternative to other fossil fuels. The burning of shale gas releases 50% less carbon monoxide into the atmosphere and if it’s fully utilised most countries could meet their 2020 emission targets.  However, the process of extraction has come under close scrutiny.

The process is called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’. It involves drilling deep underground to access shale rock strata, then pumping large amounts of water, sand and other chemicals down the well under extreme pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas. This is then captured and can be used for a variety of sources. Critics have stated that with a lack of long term examples we have little knowledge of the impact the process will have on the environment. While the process has been around for many years, it is only with recent advances in technology that shale gas has become a viable source energy. In the US, where fracking is becoming increasingly common, there have been reports of water contamination, large amounts of the extracted methane escaping into the environment, pollution and drinking water being rendered unsafe. France has halted exploration pending the results of a report into the environmental consequences. The UK already has 2 hydraulic fracturing plants: should we do the same?

And while the environmental concerns over shale gas and its extraction are of vital importance, there is another problem that concerns me at least as much. After extensive surveying it has been found that Europe has enough shale gas to meet its needs for the next 60 years. So, can we breathe a sigh of relief? I find the thought that now we have a new energy resource we’ll just use it up in much the same way we’re doing with coal, oil and other hydrocarbons a slightly depressing one. It just seems to be delaying the inevitable; disaster has just been deferred. I hope that the slow change of attitude that’s occurring and the emergence of the cleantech industry will not stall with this development.