Behavioural Safety

The news that another construction worker has been fatally injured in a fall from height in Edinburgh is tragic and whilst enquiries are continued, we do not know how this terrible accident occurred.

Last year in the UK there were 142 workers fatally injured at work with a further 60 members of the public killed through work activities. Collectively, we must do more to reduce these frightening statistics because behind every fatality, there is a great deal of sadness and suffering, in most cases, this could have been avoided.

Risk management has traditionally tended to focus almost entirely on the risk, its probability, management and prevention. This may sound eminently sensible, but in fact, the risk, hazard or anticipated threat is really only one half of the equation. Risk-aware decision-making also involves considering the perpetrators, the vulnerable, the operatives, the victims and, of course, the risk managers themselves. It is, in other words, primarily a ‘people’ thing.

For my part, I have recently completed the Behavioural Science for Leadership in Safety course, an IOSH certificated course delivered by Behavioural Safety Services & Training Ltd. Although I had to google some of the words used, I found the course very thought-provoking.

I always state that a piece of paper will not save anyone’s life, simply giving someone a bundle of documents is not enough, we need to have meaningful health and safety discussions with our employees. We all have a part to play, lets's start looking at health and safety differently and look to reduce this constant unnecessary suffering.

Based on the principle that our Thoughts, Feelings and Actions are linked.Once we understand that, then we can start to influence behaviour to impact performance in lots of ways and especially so in health and safety.

One question that I have discussed with various people since is.

If we have 10 operatives at work with 5 of them being exemplary in their health and safety practices and the other 5 working below the required standard (but getting away with it), what group would have the most influence or would it even out? This has raised several other queries including using incentives to bring people up to the required standard and do incentives need to be monetary?

One incentive could be (if communicated correctly) the knowledge that working in a safe manner, it would lead to not only immediate benefits but also to long term health benefits, an increase in worker morale and ultimately financial benefits for the individual and the company.

Acting incorrectly at work can have a detrimental effect on both work and home life, if you have an accident or suffer ill health through your work activity, you could lose your job and/or be prosecuted. This can lead to financial and emotional hardships, frustration and even imprisonment in the most severe cases.