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The Power of the Spoken Word

27 Oct

As a writer, you can sometimes forget the power of speech.

This was brought to my attention on Tuesday. Matthew Holder, head of campaigns and engagement, and I presented to a group of apprentices at Kier Building Maintenance in London as part of the European Health and Safety Week.

We were joined by young workers aged 17-26 who were working in gas, electricity, engineering and plumbing. All boys, some had just finished their apprentices, while others were mere weeks into them.

Our presentation focused on engaging the young workers on workplace health and safety. To do this, we gave them examples of how they take responsibility for their safety in their everyday lives. They already look after themselves and their friends on the football pitch, at a nightclub, on holiday. It gave us a good base to talk about attitude and behaviour in the workplace and how it really does have a positive impact on safety.

“We wanted to talk to the apprentices on their level, and hear their ideas of what makes good health and safety at work happen. They shared their ideas and knowledge with us, which was good for us to hear firsthand and great for Kier to know how their training is progressing,” said Matthew after the event.

We also talked about our young worker campaign, Speak Up, Stay Safe, and how that message is at the heart of good health and safety. By speaking to their supervisors, their friends, their family, their mentors, young people can make that first important step to staying safe at work. And we assured them the law was on their side.

This was backed up by the second presentation of the morning. John Callaghan, a Kier health and safety adviser, echoed our message: “If you feel there is something wrong, there usually is – so say something.”

Hearing Matthew and I talk, ask and answer questions on the issues did get them thinking. But watching and listening to the video of Barbara Burke, mother of Steven Burke, who tragically died when he fell from a scaffold at work when he was just 17, clearly got them to consider the terrible consequences of poorly managed workplace health and safety. No one wants those same words to come out of their mother’s mouth. As a reality check and an added kick to the importance of what we were saying, it hit home.

And sometimes that’s it: speaking. We’ve got to take every opportunity we can to talk to young people and give them the chance to be heard. That means everyone: the British Safety Council, employers and colleagues.

Because young people will only use our message – Speak Up, Stay Safe – if there is someone there to listen.

 

Many thanks to Kier Building Maintenance for the invitation. If you would like us to come and talk to your apprentices or young workers, please get in touch.

“I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all the hard work you put into making yesterday’s talk a success. I must say I was much impressed with the way everything went. The talk was very relevant and informative and I really liked it because it was very interactive.”

Judith Bilson, health and safety adviser, Kier Islington Ltd.

For more information on Speak Up, Stay Safe please visit www.youtube.com/speakupstaysafe

 

 

 

The Scottish Perspective

22 Sep

 

Matthew Holder, head of campaigns and engagement at the British Safety Council visited Portcullis House last week to meet shadow secretary of state Ann McKechin (Labour, Glasgow North). Ann had made a valuable contribution to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee’s  enquiry into health and safety Scotland and the British Safety Council was keen to discuss how we could work together on issues.

Having a background as a solicitor, Ann was very knowledgeable about the Scottish legal system when it came to non-compliance and imposing fines for breaches of health and safety law. In sum, she had a concern that the Scottish courts weren’t really set up to impose sufficient fines and act as enough of a deterrent to those who want to avoid making the investment to follow the law. This was in interesting contrast to the high level of debate around health and safety in Scotland, with few of the ‘silly’ myth stories that feature in the English press. Ann felt this was because there was a general recognition by the public that H&S is serious and worthy of public debate and consideration.

She was very interested in the British Safety Council’s schools programme. She explained that her constituency of Glasgow North did have social problems, with schools that do need help. She offered to help in any way that she could to help the British Safety Council engage schools and  provide free training for school children in the entry level qualification. She was also very interested in our Globe and Sword of Honour Awards that recognise excellence in managing health, safety and environmental pressures. She wanted to stay in touch and be part of our efforts to engage parliamentarians in order to affect the broader changes we want to make.

HSE Board: Decisions on RIDDOR etc

17 Aug

http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/hseboard/2011index.htm

A substantial discussion with some significant decisions. At the top of the list, the HSE Board agreed to change the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), following a consultation earlier in the year. Under the current system, employers have to report to HSE if a worker is off work for more than 3 days due to a work-related accident/ill health. The change will make this over 7 days. It will also move the obligation to report to 15 days from the date of the accident (from 11 currently).

The Board discussion highlighted differences of opinion. Although response to the consultation (776 responses, including by the British Safety Council) was 2:1 in favour of the change, some thought that the change will have little impact. The duty to record any 3 day accident under RIDDOR remains, and some thought that little was gained by moving reporting to 7 days – the burden is slight, and useful information on accidents causing up to 7 days absence will be lost, diminishing the quality of stats on health and safety. In contrast, others highlighted that this is the view of the majority who were consulted and many SME’s don’t have a dedicated health and safety officer – the change will be significant for them. It was also pointed out that there was strong support for the change by health and safety professionals and safety reps.

In the end the Board’s decision was to support the change to RIDDOR (leading to change in the law in April 2012). However there will be a clear message to employers that recording is vital (and remains for over 3 day), and that HSE will be watching closely for any negative impact and review the decision in 2 years.  

Other highlights included a discussion on the latest fatality statistics for 2010/2011 – 171 fatalities (provisional), against 147 from 2009/2010. Although graphs show the trend is downward, some members pointed out that when adjusted for numbers of people in work at the time of recession, the statistics have flat-lined. Re-emphasis is needed to drive further improvements (though there remains a budget freeze on HSE campaigns). These numbers need to be put in the context of far greater deaths caused by occupational disease (exposure to dust, asbestos etc), and the Board will consider a further paper on this in November. Plus, the sectors in the spot-light – agriculture, waste/recycling, construction and manufacturing – confirms its strategic priorities.

Other agreements: a high level summit for leaders in waste and recycling by the end of the year to drive improvements in a challenging environment, marked by high levels of migrant and agency workers. Construction is making progress, but more needs to be done on occupational health issues – the good work of the ODA needs to be publicised and spread; and HSE will report to the Board on its review of Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations.

A change can do you good

27 Jun

We’ve been talking a lot recently about habits and routines in the Safety Management office. There have been reasons for this. The British Safety Council campaign, Changing habits of a lifetime, reported its first results; we’ve been talking about changing our scenery as summer holidays spring to our minds; and there is our conference in London on 6 July regarding the changing health and safety landscape.

It got me thinking about routines and habits and why we get into those that we do. There are many little routines which we live through every day, so ingrained in us we hardly think about them: putting the kettle on before stepping into the shower; a free newspaper in the hand before stepping onto the train; the unconscious greetings you make while arriving to work; the food left out for the cat; the alarm clock set before sleep comes.

The psychology of our habitual behaviour says that we do many things automatically because it is easier. Research psychologist, and author of Sources of Power, Gary Klein claims all behaviour is automatic, unproblematic and successful. A lot of our habits don’t cause us any problems and as everything we do automatically usually turns out all right, we don’t give it a second thought and so keep doing it.

The only problem is when these habits are working around hazards. Habits and hazards can only go together when the habits are good ones. This is why our Changing habits of a Lifetime campaign promotes such an important message. It’s about understanding the bad habits that have crept in; then educating and righting them. Not putting on the right personal protective equipment: for example, wanting to get a job done quickly and forgetting your goggles; or sitting in an uncomfortable chair because it’s what you’ve always done; or ignoring the rising panic as stress sets in: these are all bad habits which lead to bad practice and can result in workplace injury, ill health or even death.

As human beings, we are quite adaptable, especially when the changes are small and we can see their purpose. We don’t like change for change’s sake, and we can resist intervention when it’s perceived to come from someone ignorant of the situation. This is another importance aspect to our Changing habits campaign: each phase is coming from experts in the field and is brought about by listening to those who work in it: you. We wouldn’t want to be changing habits otherwise.

Viktor Frankl, survivor of the Holocaust and psychiatrist wrote this about change: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” That means sometimes we have to right wrongs in our own behaviour, accept new customs and situations and ways of working. If, ultimately, the changes from our campaign save a life, reduce injuries and make people more aware of their working habits, both good and bad, it has started well on its long road.

I also look forward to meeting many of you at our conference on 6 July and debating the changes in the health and safety landscape and how they might affect you.

http://www.britsafe.org/home/networking-and-events/conferences/confchanginglandscape.aspx

http://saferhabits.com/