Tag Archives: Stay Safe

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





“I want to be a…”

15 Aug

At the end of the month, you’re going to be reading in Safety Management about the successful relaunch of our Speak Up, Stay Safe campaign.

Big message

On a sunny day at the beginning of August, we set up stall at the Underage Festival in Victoria Park, east London. We were bombarded with young visitors for eight hours who wanted to talk to us about what we were doing and the movement we were starting. They also had the chance to star in our Polaroid Wall of Fame by having their photos taken, signing them and adding them to the wall in a pledge to get stuck into the campaign and follow us on our sites on Twitter and Facebook. Visitors could also get their hands on guitar plectrums, mirrors, badges and postcards, all with our cool design which had been chosen from those created by young people who attended our Youth Action Day in May.

We talked to the teenagers, ranging in ages from 13-17 about their work experience, what they wanted to work in, study or at least have a go at.

Young people crowd in to get their hands on Speak Up, Stay Safe freebies

“I want to be a vet.”

“He’s going to study graphic design.”

“I’ve already worked two years in a restaurant.”

“I tried working at a stable for work experience, but want to be a dentist.”

“I work in a shop every weekend.”

These kids were proud to have a job or at least know what they were going to aim for in life. If they didn’t know, they were still keen even thinking about the world of work. The older ones among us might grumble on about how kids can’t wait to grow up these days…

But I had so many conversations with young people who were excited to talk about work, their work experience, or what they wanted to do after school/college/university.

I made them talk about injuries or risks at work and talked to them about how they look after each other at festivals and out and about: that, it’s taking that attitude into the workplace, so that they keep themselves and others safe.

They were up for it, and some showed their energy and creativity by entering our competition. They had to take some of our goodies and use them in a photo or video to somehow get our campaign message across. One girl covered herself in our top tips card to emphasise the point…

Getting into the campaign

The point I got from it all was the pride and dedication a lot of these kids already have to their future careers and the notion of staying safe in them. That’s not to say these future workers will never come unstuck in their workplaces, but if they think back to 2011 and that hot day in Victoria Park, they might just remember the rule:



An education for the next generation

14 Apr

As the number of 16-24 year olds out of work creeps ever closer to one million, Prime Minister David Cameron has said in an interview that in order to tackle youth unemployment, we need to make changes in the education system to ensure we produce young people with a real qualification that people need in the modern workplace.

Surely at least part of that qualification should involve health and safety?

We at the British Safety Council are doing our bit to educate young people, and last year, 36,000 school children and college pupils passed the British Safety Council’s entry level award in workplace hazard awareness or level 1 award in health and safety at work.

But there have been calls for more to be done and to include health and safety on the curriculum in order to prepare young people and raise awareness of risks before they enter the workplace for the first time.

Anthea Dennis, whose son died during his first week at work, believes schools should ensure young people are prepared before sending them on work experience.

She says: “Unfortunately Daniel didn’t have the opportunity to learn about health and safety at school before he started work, but I definitely think health and safety should be part of the curriculum to prevent another avoidable death of a young person.”

Daniel Dennis, from south Wales was just 17 when he died. He was working for North Eastern Roofing and, having only been in his job for a week, he was asked by his employer to go up onto a roof to fetch a piece of wood. There were skylights on the roof and because it was a sunny day, they were hard to see. The 17-year-old stepped through one of them and fell around 30 feet to his death.

Daniel had received no safety training at all from his employer. “He shouldn’t have been up on the roof anyway but he had no harness or any safety equipment,” says Anthea. “I don’t even think he had an induction.”

As a 17-year-old boy, Daniel was eager to please in his new job and did as he was asked by his employer. “He went up on the roof because he was asked to and he wasn’t scared of heights,” adds Anthea. “When people are young, they’re so enthusiastic and don’t have the necessary experience to think about the risks.

“I think boys in particular have difficulty in saying no if they are asked to do something, so it’s important for them to learn that they can say no if they feel uncomfortable and shouldn’t feel pressured into doing anything.”

Anthea, along with organisations such as the British Safety Council, are campaigning for sensible health and safety. She says: “If we can do our bit to help and raise public awareness of sensible safety and encourage young people to speak up if they feel unsafe, then the world will be a much better place.”

The British Safety Council will be re-launching its award nominated Speak Up, Stay Safe campaign in June, designed to encourage young people to speak up if they have any concerns about their safety and prevent parents suffering a similar tragedy to that of Anthea Dennis.

Visit www.britsafe.org/speakupstaysafe for more details.

Remembering Steven

31 Jan

Steven Burke, young worker

I’ve spent the last week getting all technological and setting up a microsite for a new joint venture with The Co-operative Group called “Safe in our Hands”. In setting it up and writing the copy, I was reminded of the generous spirit, humility and caring nature of one particular young man.   

Today I want to take time for all of us, where ever we’re working and whatever the workplace to remember Steven Burke.

As part of the “Safe in our Hands” charity dinner, we’re giving all proceeds raised to Francis House Children’s Hospice in memory of Steven. Sunday 30 January was the anniversary of Steven’s death. He died too young and aged only 17 years old, in a preventable and tragic workplace accident.

Last year, we ran a new campaign called “Speak Up, Stay Safe” which was aimed directly at young people to make them aware of the potential hazards in the workplace.  As part of the campaign we interviewed parents, teachers, employers and young people to get their stories. It was during this campaign that I met Steven’s mum, Barbara. Watch her story here>>

People like Steven are the reason why I and my colleagues come into work every day. It’s not rocket science. Too many people are dying or being horribly injured. People who had so much more to give and who leave behind devastated families, friends and colleagues.  

So think of Steven today and maybe we can start to make stories like Barbara’s a thing of the past.

Visit www.fack.org.uk for more information.

Work experience girl Paige is on her way up

8 Dec

15-year-old Paige Purewal (above, showing  good handrail use) from Harlington Community School is spending two weeks on work experience with the British Safety Council. Here, she gives us her thoughts on our own health and safety induction and a young person’s view on Speak Up, Stay Safe.

This is my first work experience placement and it is a pleasure to be working with the British Safety Council. Prior to my placement I did not have much knowledge of the British Safety Council and what my roles as a part of the team would be. Before we were sent off for our two weeks of work experience we had a presentation from our teacher on health and safety in the work place. It was just a simple presentation that did not go into much detail. I don’t think many students were aware of the dangers in and around their work place beforehand and it didn’t cross their minds.

I came into work on the first day via the underground and had arrived early to get a grasp of my surroundings. When I arrived at the building I was met by Rosie who gave me a health and safety induction. She took me around the building and showed me fire exits, extinguishers, smoking shelters and a meeting point in case of a fire; there was also a way of walking down the stairs safely to prevent injury, which is to have one hand free to grab the railings if needed.

This induction, which is the first I have received, made me feel safe in my workplace as I knew they were concerned about every member’s health and safety. I had spoken to a friend who had said that, in her work experience, they had sat in a room without supervision to watch a health and safety video, so there was no guarantee for the employer that they had taken in the information. In my opinion, that was not the right way to inform young people about the dangers in a workplace, especially one they are not familiar with.

Speak Up, Stay Safe is a great campaign to inform young people about the working environment and how to stay safe. Many young people use social networking such as facebook and twitter and this is a good way to get the message across. Although I think there needs to be more publicity as this is something young people would be interested to know about.

With the knowledge I received from other employees during the induction process, I have gained a better understanding of the British Safety Council and feel I am in an environment which cares for health and safety of the staff. Everyone has made me feel very welcome and knowing the fears of entering a working environment for the first time there is a great effort to make me feel welcome.

I have been told the right way to do a specific job and if I am unsure about something I can ask a member of staff to help. From finding out about the work of the British Safety Council and what they offer I will recommend my school to take part in the free level 1 health and safety qualification for future students who are going to undertake work experience.