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We’ve moved!

7 Mar

Just to let you all know the British Safety Council’s blog has now moved. Visit www.britsafe.org/blog to get your lastest news, reflections and opinion on the most pressing health, safety and environmental issues of today.

First Aid: first to work

3 Oct

I was a clumsy kid. My parents despaired as cherryade went scooting up newly painted walls; as by trying to help out I ended up breaking the lawn mower; how I came back from every holiday with scars as souvenirs.

Last night it dawned on me that some clumsy people should never live alone.

Just before dinner, I reached into a drawer of bits and bobs. One of the bobs was an attachment for the food processor. With blades. It sliced into my finger.

I wouldn’t make a good nurse. Imagine clumsy ‘ole me trying to bandage someone, or stick needles into an arm: it would cause more harm than good.

Blood started dripping all over the other bits and bobs; then onto the floor, my jeans and the food I had.

I tried to look at the cut. I knew nothing about what I should do, so I ran it under some water and watched the sink turn red. Then I wrapped the biggest plaster I could find around it, taped it up some more when the blood started to show and ate my dinner with one hand. I ignored the throbbing.

Why was I content to do nothing much about it?

I’m not good with blood and bodies cut open. I can’t sit through an episode of ER or Casualty simply because there are too many bones sticking at the wrong angles and insides of people on display.

I also knew I was coming to work today.

The British Safety Council has a team of trained first aiders in its offices. They have been trained by the Red Cross and they do their refresher course every three years to keep up-to-date.

Cleaning and healing

Paris, one of our first aiders, unwrapped the terrible sticky tape I had put round my finger, soaked with blood.

 “Did you clean it?” she asked. I replied I hadn’t.

“Why not?” I told her that I had known I was coming to work today and we have first aiders who would deal with it.

She smiled. She cleaned it properly and covered it to stop the blood while still allowing air to get to it to heal.

It’s made me think. Let’s keep in mind my injury was not work related.

But I did come to work to get it sorted. This firstly made me aware of the basic skills I obviously lack. It also got me thinking about the reality of the work that our gap year students do in far-flung corners of the globe regarding basic health and safety; teaching children to keep themselves safe and healthy so that clumsy hiccups like mine do not reach dangerous levels.

I also thought about the role and responsibility of employers. Legally, employers must have first aid provision and equipment and facilities for their employees should they be injured or are taken ill at work under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Depending on the workplace, this can be simply having a first aid box available, or, as we do, having trained first aiders to deal with. Points to consider include the hazards, the number of employers and visitors, the working arrangements and the accidents and ill-health record.

It doesn’t account for clumsy people like me.

But that’s OK. I was glad that I could come into work today and have that trained attention.

There are many moments in our working lives where things happen ‘at the office’ and all we can do is think about being at home.

Yesterday, I was at home thinking about being at work. It was a change which has meant my wound will heal nicely.

And my bits and bobs drawer has been reorganised to a safer standard.

Are you a trained first aider? Have you had a first aid experience at work? Do you think all workplaces should have trained employees in first aid? Let us know your thoughts and comments.

Chris Tiff: Sad farewell

5 Sep

It is with great sadness that the British Safety Council records the death of Chris Tiff, a tireless campaigner for workers health and safety. Chris was a proud member of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and always put construction workers first, never afraid to speak his mind and always determined to ensure their voices were heard. 

One of Chris’s many achievements was the establishment of the George Brumwell Learning Centre based at Canary Wharf. The Learning Centre gives construction workers the opportunity to further their skills in such subjects as information technology and English.

He was always willing to try new things, for example taking up the challenge as one of the first Worker Safety Advisers (WSA) and providing health and safety advice to workers who lacked access to expert independent health and safety advice. Chris worked incredibly hard and used his experience to ensure the WSA pilot’s success.

He will be sorely missed.

Mutual ground

2 Sep

When you meet people for the first time, inevitably, there will be those twists and turns during the conversation as you and they try to find mutual ground and work out what you have in common and what you completely disagree on.

Moments when you realise you’re both on the same page, with shared ideas and goals, are comforting ones. Lifelong marriages are born in this way: “He loves the black liquorice Allsorts as well!” “She was also at my first ever concert!” And in the workplace, business and government, common ground is the most important thing in getting things done.

The British Safety Council had one of those productive meetings this week, as Neal Stone, director of policy and research has already blogged below. Our local MP, Andy Slaughter, visited us to discuss our work and his interests with Neal and our chief executive Alex Botha.

I sat in on the chat as we will be featuring it in the next issue of Safety Management and it was early in the conversation when we all realised there were more cornerstones of agreement and joint interests than not.

Community was an early theme in the discussion. We are obviously a local employer we discussed future developments in Hammersmith as well as our charity work and work with schools. Andy was very interested in our free health and safety qualifications and how that impacts on workplace safety as well as our campaigns Speak Up, Stay Safe and Changing Habits of a Lifetime.

The health and safety landscape has been changing a lot over the last year and this was something Alex, Andy and Neal delved into, with Alex explaining our position and the views of our members to reviews and consultations such as that of Löfstedt and HSE on RIDDOR. As the British Safety Council represented its members’ views on those reviews, Alex explained how the notion of health and safety as a ‘burden’ was perceived by them, as well as the problems of understanding ‘reasonably practicable’, especially for small and medium businesses.

As shadow justice minister, Andy was keen to talk about the Jackson proposals and changes to civil litigation. It is clear that in this already shifting landscape, more changes are coming and be assured the British Safety Council will share, explain and comment on all updates to its members.

It's good to talk: Andy and Alex at our HQ in Hammersmith this week

“We need to tackle the misuse, rather than say we don’t need it.” These were Andy’s words when the conversation turned to the negative perceptions of health and safety and how the media portray these stories. Everyone round the table was in agreement with Andy’s views and it was made clear the British Safety Council is a robust supporter of sensible and proportionate health and safety.

Positive and fruitful as the meeting was, it was also encouraging that issues the British Safety Council strives to keep on the health and safety agenda are also in the minds of those working in government. Fostering these relationships and communicating the outcomes to our members and the wider audience, is all part of our strategy and work.

Our conversations with government and MPs, bodies and unions enable us to feed in to them what is truly happening in workplaces around the world. In fact, in a couple of weeks, we will be meeting with Ann McKechin, shadow secretary of state for Scotland, about our work, our Scottish members’ responses to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into health and safety this year and what the British Safety Council does in her Glasgow North constituency.

But these meetings and conversations need you as well. Get in touch with us: here, through our website, on Twitter or Facebook. Any workplace health, safety and environmental issue, big or small, is important to us and part of the mutual ground we all share: that no one should be killed, injured or made ill by their work.

Nigel Bryson to examine worker involvement at the Health and Safety ’11 show in Edinburgh

30 Aug

The greater the worker involvement, the better the health, safety and business performance of organisations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is so convinced of the evidence supporting this statement, that worker involvement is one of its current top three priority issues. Britain’s safety regulator also made increasing worker involvement one of the central aims of its revised Health and Safety Strategy in 2009.

As workers are often referred to as an organisation’s ‘greatest asset’ it could be assumed their employers treat them accordingly. Yet HSE estimates that 60% – yes, the majority – of workers are not consulted over health and safety when they should be. Consultation is the minimum legal duty on employers with regards to worker involvement. This means that large numbers of employers in Great Britain are missing out on a huge opportunity to improve their health and safety efficiency. They are also breaking the law, of course, by not consulting their staff.

Research for the government on worker engagement published in 2009 concluded that if the performance of the workforce is central to the success of an organisation, “whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy”. Worker involvement should therefore be at the heart of business strategy, but 60% of employees in Great Britain are not even permitted the minimum legal consultation rights over their health and safety!

This situation must change if employers are going to get the best out of their workforce and overcome the many challenges facing organisations in the current recession. People support what they help create. At the Health and Safety ’11 – Scotland show in Edinburgh on the 8 September 2011 I will outline how organisations have successfully transformed their health, safety and business performance by greater worker involvement. Please come along and hear more – attendance is free (see www.healthandsafetyevents.co.uk).

For those not able to get to Edinburgh my book Zero Harm Worker Involvement – the missing piece! covers the topic in detail and is available to order through the following website www.workerinvolvement.co.uk

About our guest blogger

Nigel Bryson is a health and safety consultant who specialises in helping companies improve their health, safety and business performance through better worker involvement. He is a former director of health and environment at the GMB trade union and has many years of experience in the field of health and safety.

He can be contacted at nigel@brysonconsulting.co.uk and will be on hand to answer questions on worker involvement following his talk at the Health and Safety ’11 – Scotland exhibition, where the British Safety Council is running a series of free educational seminars.

On the road to reducing injuries

24 Aug

I’m late for work. On a normal day I’d be whizzing along the dual carriageway, sticking to the speed limit of course. Instead, I’ve moved about 200 yards in half an hour. The reason? Roadworks.

As I pass the workers busily resurfacing the road I realise that their job is one I could never do. There’s just a thin barrier of cones between the workers and my car, the driver behind me is on his phone and I don’t think he’s noticed the workers walking around just feet away from his vehicle. These workers are literally putting their lives in the hands of me and ‘phone guy’ – relying on us to drive safely through the roadworks so they can go home and see their families at the end of a long shift.

I had the opportunity to interview John O’Keefe – health, safety and environmental director for highways maintenance company EnterpriseMouchel – a few weeks ago, and the reality of the dangers that workers face really hit home. “When our people are working on the road network, they are at risk of people who fall asleep at the wheel, those who are drunk or on the phone, and these can all result in accidents. That’s our biggest concern and we rely on them to drive safely in order for us to stay safe,” he told me.

According to John, there have been occasions where people have either not seen or have purposefully disregarded the company’s roadworks and have steamed on through regardless. “There have also been issues with cyclists, particularly in London, who often feel safer in our closed off works area than they do on the highway,” he explains. “I can understand their mentality, but that puts our workers at risk in our own working area. The main challenge we face is keeping the public safe in relation to the work we’re doing while keeping our own workers safe in a protected zone.”

The company is currently trialling a ‘cone intrusion system’ which is effectively a warning system if the line of defence is broken. “If someone comes through our barrier of cones, an alarm will sound. It might be a minimal warning but it might give workers just enough time to get out of the way,” adds John. As part of its ongoing trial of this concept, the company is experimenting with various types of detection including the use of laser technology and investigating the fitting of personal alarms that will trigger in addition to audible warnings.

So next time you’re stuck in traffic due to roadworks, spare a thought for the workers risking their lives to make the roads safer for us. Having previously been frustrated at having to slow down to 40mph and merge into one lane on a motorway, I now realise that the restrictions are there for a reason.

Read my full article on EnterpriseMouchel in the September issue of Safety Management.

The sad loss of an influential safety campaigner

19 Aug

We were sad to hear the news that Diana Lamplugh OBE died this week after suffering a stroke.

Following the disappearance of her daughter, Suzy, in 1986, Diana and her husband, Paul, founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which became a well-known national charity for personal safety.

The aim of the trust is to raise the awareness of the importance of personal safety and highlight the risks people face while offering advice, action and support to minimise those risks. It also provides training courses on personal safety, particularly for lone workers.

After setting up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Diana campaigned successfully for the licensing of minicabs; safer car parks, train and tube stations; and for stalking to be recognised as a criminal offence. The charity works with the government, police, public bodies and businesses to encourage better personal safety.

Diana was forced to retire from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease following a massive stroke in 2003. Her husband, Paul, also retired but became a trustee of the charity.

Diana and Paul were both awarded OBEs for their work for the charity and were jointly awarded the Beacon Prize for leadership for their work in raising awareness of personal safety and addressing the causes and solutions to violence and aggression in society.

Suzy Lamplugh, a 25 year old estate agent, disappeared in 1986 after she went to meet a client, known as Mr Kipper, and show him around a house in Fulham, west London. Reports say she was seen arguing with the man before getting into a car with him. Her body has never been found. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1994.

It’s a shame Diana never received any justice for her daughter’s disappearance, and never really discovered what happened to her. However, she can be proud of the fact that her campaigning has helped thousands of other lone workers keep safe in vulnerable situations.

We hope the Suzy Lamplugh Trust continues with its fantastic work and our thoughts are with Diana’s family at this sad time.

To find out more about the Suzy Lamplugh Trust visit www.suzylamplugh.org