Workplace Safety and Behavioural Science

Mindful Moves: Improving Workplace Safety with the Science of Smart Choices

Enter the mysterious world of behavioural science and how it can be a game-changer in transforming workplace safety and culture by tackling those tricky irrational thinking patterns.

Imagine this:

A workplace where safety isn’t just a set of rules but a way of thinking, a shared mindset that embraces the well-being of every team member. Now, enter the leader of this little adventure – behavioural science.

Rewriting the Script:

  • In our minds, we often follow scripts that lead us to shortcuts or risky decisions. Behavioural science helps us rewrite these scripts. It’s like giving our brains a safety upgrade, tweaking the narrative so that making the safer choice becomes the new leader’s journey.

Nudging Toward Safety:

  • Think of behavioural nudges as friendly whispers guiding us toward the right path. Subtle cues, reminders, and visuals are strategically placed to nudge us away from potential hazards gently. It’s like having a personal safety coach cheering you on in the background.

Turning Mistakes into Lessons:

  • We’re all human, and mistakes happen. Behavioural science doesn’t point fingers; instead, it turns mistakes into lessons. By creating a culture that sees near-misses as learning opportunities, we’re transforming oops moments into stepping stones toward a safer, smarter future.

Celebrating the Safety Leaders:

  • Who doesn’t love a good pat on the back? Behavioural science encourages reinforcing behaviour and celebrating the safety leaders among us. Those who consistently make safe choices become the leaders, inspiring others to follow and improve performance.

Unmasking Cognitive Biases:

  • Have you ever heard of those sneaky cognitive biases that can lead us down the wrong path? Behavioural science is like a detective, unmasking these biases and showing us how to outsmart them. It’s empowering us to be the Sherlock Holmes of our own safety adventure.

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure:

  • We’re all influenced by those around us. Behavioural science harnesses the power of positive peer pressure. Showcasing the majority making safe choices creates a ripple effect where safety becomes the right, admirable choice.

Gamifying Safety:

  • Who said safety training has to be dull? Behavioural science introduces a bit of fun into the mix. Imagine safety challenges and games that make learning an adventure. It’s like turning workplace safety into a quest where everyone emerges as the leader.

Setting Sail with Personal Safety Goals:

  • Everyone loves a goal. Behavioural science can encourage us to set personal safety goals. It’s like charting our course toward a safer future. Small, achievable milestones become the compass guiding us, making safety a journey worth taking.

So, by rewriting the script, behavioural science principles can help organisations foster a safety culture that addresses irrational thinking and promotes long-term, positive behavioural change among employees.

Here’s to workplaces where behavioural science isn’t just a fancy term but a guiding force. It’s about nudging people toward smart choices, a companion on your journey to a safer, happier, and more sustainable workplace.

Health and safety conversations

How to approach a worker about a health and safety issue.

Hey there!

I want to share some tips on how to approach your fellow workers when it comes to health and safety issues. We’re all in this together, and it’s important that we look out for each other’s well-being.

So, let’s dive into it with a friendly and problem-solving attitude.

Approach with Care

First things first, approach your co-worker with a friendly and understanding attitude.

Remember, sometimes people don’t realise they’re doing something unsafe. We all have our habits, and safety might not be top of mind.

So, no finger-pointing here, and don’t assume they’re intentionally being unsafe.

Be Clear and Concerned

When discussing their behaviour, be clear and objective.

Avoid sounding like you’re criticising them.

Instead of saying something like, “I can’t believe you climbed the ladder that way! Don’t you know what could happen?” try a more empathetic approach.

Say something like, “I saw the way you climbed that ladder, and I’m concerned you could get hurt.”

This way, you’re showing them that you genuinely care about their safety.

Explain the Why

It’s crucial not just to point out the problem but also to offer a solution.

Give clear instructions on the right behaviour and explain why it matters.

For instance, say, “I’d prefer that you get someone to hold the ladder for you. We want you to go home safely. If that means taking time to get help, I’d rather you do that than rush and risk getting hurt.”

By doing this, you’re guiding them and helping them understand the importance of the change.

Secure Their Commitment

Research has shown that people are more likely to follow through when they commit to change.

So, after your discussion, check if they understand and are on board.

You could ask, “Can I count on you to do this?” or “Do you agree to this?”

This step ensures that everyone is on the same page and committed to a safer work environment.

Offer Your Support

Lastly, let them know that you’ve got their back.

Tell them that if anyone questions their new behaviour or if they spot a risk themselves, you’re there to support them.

Leading by example and being consistent with health and safety practices is essential.

Say something like, “If anybody questions why you’re doing it this way, I can help explain it to them and let them know I expect all staff, including me, to do it this way.”

Remember, you’re a team, and you’re all responsible for each other’s safety.

By approaching these safety conversations with care and understanding, you can create a culture of health and safety that benefits you all.

Stay safe, and look out for one another!

A health and safety consultants journey

A journey in safety management empowering positive change

Hello there, fellow safety professionals!

I want to share a journey of the old me and the new me, a personal transformation from the negative to the positive regarding safety management.

Safety is not just a set of rules and regulations; it’s a way of life we must embrace wholeheartedly.

So, let’s embark on this journey together, and I hope my experiences and insights can inspire and guide you toward becoming a more proactive safety professional.

Let’s dive in.

Self-reflection and awareness

The first and most crucial step in becoming a positive safety professional is self-reflection and awareness. Take some time to reflect on your current attitude towards safety. Are you constantly focusing on the negatives, or do you see the potential for improvement and growth?


The old me: “Ugh, another safety meeting. This is so tedious.”

The new me: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to make our workplace safer through these meetings.”

Embrace a learning mindset

You need to adopt a learning mindset to shift from negativity to positivity. Safety is an evolving field, and there’s always something new to discover. Embrace every challenge as a chance to learn and grow.


The old me: “Why do we have to change our safety procedures again?”

The new me: “Let’s see how this change can enhance our safety measures and potentially save lives.”

Communicate effectively

Effective communication is key to fostering a positive culture of safety. Encourage open and honest discussions about safety concerns. Be a good listener, and ensure that everyone feels heard and valued.


The old me: “These employees never listen to me about safety.”

The new me: “I’ll engage in a dialogue with the employees to understand their perspective and concerns.”

Lead by example

As a safety professional, you are a role model for others. Lead by example in your commitment to safety. Practice what you preach and demonstrate the behaviours you want to see in your colleagues.


The old me: “Why should I wear my safety gear if no one else does?”

The new me: “I’ll wear my safety gear consistently to set a positive example for my colleagues.”

Celebrate your successes

Celebrate even the smallest safety successes. Positive reinforcement can do wonders for morale and motivation. Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your team in making the workplace safer.


The old me: “We haven’t had an accident in months, but that’s just luck.”

The new me: “Our accident-free streak is a result of our collective commitment to safety. Let’s keep up the good work!”

Continuous Improvement

Lastly, always strive for continuous improvement. Stay updated on the latest safety practices, encourage innovation, and be open to new ideas. Challenge the status quo and never settle for mediocrity.


The old me: “Our safety procedures are fine; there’s no need to change anything.”

The new me: “Let’s regularly review and update our safety procedures to ensure they are the best they can be.”

Just before you go…

Becoming a proactive safety professional is not an overnight transformation. It’s a journey. One that is rewarding.

Remember, your positive attitude towards safety can inspire and motivate your colleagues, ultimately creating a safer and more enjoyable workplace for everyone.

So, let’s embrace this journey together and make safety management a force for positive change in our organisations!

Health and safety consultant problem solving

I bet you this tricks your mind: The Einstellung Effect

Did you know the ‘Einstellung Effect’ can influence you?

And it probably does most times you’re faced with a problem.

So, let’s delve into the world of safety and explore how the Einstellung Effect can impact problem-solving and solutions in this critical domain.

We can all agree a workplace is where safety is paramount, and every decision you make carries the potential to protect lives and well-being.

But sometimes, hidden biases can cloud our judgment – that’s where the Einstellung Effect comes into play.

Picture this: You’re entrusted with ensuring the safety of a construction site. You encounter a new challenge, a problem that demands your full attention and innovative thinking. But here’s the catch – your mind has a tendency to rely on past experiences and established routines, even when they might not be the best fit.

It’s a cognitive quirk. A phenomenon. And it is known as the Einstellung Effect.

This phenomenon refers to our mind’s tendency to fall back on familiar solutions, even if they might not be the safest or most effective.

In essence, the Einstellung Effect implies that we might subconsciously stick to conventional methods when it comes to safety. It can even hamper finding innovative solutions that could provide better protection.

Imagine wearing glasses with tinted lenses – you do not see the full spectrum of possibilities. That’s the effect.

Three examples for you to ponder

A Scaffold Setup:

Imagine you’re supervising the assembly of scaffolding for a high-rise construction project. You’ve seen scaffolds erected a certain way countless times, and your mind naturally leans towards replicating that pattern.

However, the building’s unique layout calls for a different scaffold arrangement in this particular scenario. The Einstellung Effect might trick you into following the routine, potentially compromising safety and stability.

An Emergency Evacuation:

Suppose you’re responsible for designing an emergency evacuation plan for a factory. You’ve successfully implemented evacuation procedures before, and your past approach feels like a safe bet.

But the layout of this factory is distinct, requiring a tailored plan. If the Einstellung Effect holds sway, you might overlook critical escape routes or fail to account for specific hazards that demand unique evacuation strategies.

Hazardous Materials Handling:

You’re tasked with devising protocols for handling hazardous materials in a chemical plant. Your experience with similar chemicals could lead you to rely on tried-and-true methods.

However, the properties of these materials might vary slightly, necessitating modified handling procedures. The Einstellung Effect might steer you away from considering these subtle differences, potentially leading to accidents.

A touch of inspiration

Now, let’s empower ourselves against the Einstellung Effect in the realm of safety.

Safety is not just a set of guidelines; it’s a mindset, a commitment to preserving life and well-being. Embrace the power of mindfulness and critical thinking when confronting safety challenges.

Recognise when your mind is slipping into a default mode, and intentionally stand back to view the bigger picture.

Because every problem is a chance to stretch your creative muscles and expand your cognitive horizons, so, when faced with a safety problem, step back, set aside your well-trodden paths, and explore the hidden trails of innovation because the Einstellung Effect will be lurking in the shadows.


How to sell safety with the concept of fish

Master how to sell your safety ideas and inspire action

Safety professionals, business leaders and managers, lend me your ears!

Today, I want to share some guidance on how to master the art of influence and persuasion and sell your safety ideas in the workplace.

As safety advocates, our success lies not only in our technical expertise but also in our ability to sell our ideas and convince others to embrace safety initiatives.

Let’s dive in and explore practical strategies that can inspire action and create a safer work environment.

Understand your audience:

You must understand your audience’s perspectives, needs, and motivations to influence and persuade effectively. Put yourself in their shoes, empathise with their concerns, and tailor your approach accordingly.

Sell what’s in it for them.

Example: If you’re presenting a safety initiative to the operations team, focus on how it will increase efficiency, reduce downtime, and enhance productivity, as these are their primary concerns.

Build relationships:

Establishing strong relationships based on trust and respect is essential for influencing others. Invest time in building connections with key stakeholders, including supervisors, workers, and management. Show genuine interest in their ideas, concerns, and goals.

Example: Engage in casual conversations, attend team meetings, and actively listen to their experiences. Building rapport strengthens your credibility and makes it easier to sell your ideas.

Communicate with clarity and confidence:

Effective communication is vital when selling your safety ideas. Clearly articulate the benefits, risks, and steps required to implement your safety initiatives. Be confident and passionate about your message.

Example: Use simple, relatable language, avoid jargon, and support your points with real-world examples. Paint a vivid picture of your idea’s positive impact on safety and the organisation’s overall success.

Tell compelling stories:

Stories have a powerful impact on human emotions and can make your ideas more memorable. Craft stories highlighting the consequences of unsafe practices and the positive outcomes that can be achieved through your proposed changes.

Example: Share stories of real incidents that occurred and explain how your safety idea could have prevented them. Also, share success stories of other companies or teams that embraced similar safety initiatives and experienced significant improvements.

Use social proof:

People are more likely to be influenced by the actions of others. Use social proof by highlighting success stories, testimonials, or case studies demonstrating positive outcomes of your safety ideas. This provides evidence that others have embraced similar changes and reaped the benefits.

Example: Share statistics or testimonials from workers who have witnessed the positive impact of implementing safety initiatives. Show how their peers’ support and commitment have improved safety and overall performance.

Appeal to values and emotions:

Connect with the values and emotions of your audience. Frame your safety ideas to resonate with their personal beliefs, aspirations, and sense of responsibility.

Example: Emphasise how your safety initiative aligns with the company’s values of prioritising employee well-being, creating a positive work environment, and being responsible.

Be a catalyst for change

Influence and persuasion are powerful tools for safety professionals to effect positive change in the workplace. By understanding your audience, building relationships, communicating effectively, and appealing to values and emotions, you can inspire action and convince others to embrace your safety ideas.

Remember, your passion for safety is contagious, and through your persuasive efforts, you can create a culture where everyone is committed to prioritising safety. It’s down to you to embrace the art of influence and persuasion and become a catalyst for change, making your workplace safer and more fulfilling for all.

And in the words of Columbo, “Just one more thing”

Before we wrap things up, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on everything we’ve covered. We’ve journeyed through the ups and downs of this topic, exploring its nuances and gaining valuable insights along the way. But now, my friend, it’s time to take action.

I want you to ask yourself: What will you do with your newfound knowledge?

Safety coaching and leadership professional in construction

Inspiring Safety Excellence: Leading by Example – Mark’s Journey

Are you a business owner, manager or supervisor?

An inspiring case study follows how a Safety Manager named Mark successfully transformed his company’s safety performance through coaching, lasting behavioural change, and exemplary leadership.

Mark’s journey is a testament to the power of compassion, dedication, and the ripple effect of positive change in creating safer and healthier workplaces.

We have the challenge:

When Mark took on the role of Safety Manager at a construction company, he observed a significant gap between safety policies and actual safety practices. Incidents occurred, and workers seemed disconnected from safety protocols, leading to many near misses.

So help was on hand with several areas that made an improvement.

It all started with a coaching approach:

Mark already believed that meaningful change begins with understanding the workers’ perspectives and guiding them towards a shared vision of safety excellence.

  1. Listening and Empathy: Mark learned to actively listen to the workforce’s concerns, fears, and suggestions without judgment. He showed genuine empathy, recognizing the value of their input and experiences.
  2. Building Rapport: Mark fostered trust and rapport with the workforce through regular safety meetings, encouraging them to see him as a partner in their safety journey.

Doses of positive reinforcement and recognition:

Understanding the power of positive reinforcement helped Mark introduce several initiatives to recognise and reward safety-conscious behaviours.

  1. Safety Champion Awards: Mark initiated a monthly Safety Champion Award, where individuals or teams were acknowledged and celebrated for outstanding safety contributions. This recognition uplifted the morale and motivated others to strive for excellence.
  2. Safety Success Stories: Mark shared safety success stories from the workforce, highlighting instances where proactive safety measures prevented potential accidents through near-miss reporting. These stories inspired others to follow suit.

Moving forward with leadership development:

Mark firmly believed that leadership goes beyond titles and that everyone could be a safety leader in their own right.

  1. Safety Leadership Training: Mark’s leadership development helped him prepare workshops focusing on effective communication, coaching techniques, and empowering his workforce to take ownership of safety.
  2. Leading by Example: Mark consistently demonstrated his commitment to safety through his actions and decisions. He works closely with front-line workers and supervisors, leading safety initiatives from the front and setting an inspiring example for the entire business.

There were outstanding results:

Mark’s new skills in safety coaching, positive reinforcement techniques, and leadership development helped radically transform the company’s safety culture.

  1. Reduced Incidents: Safety incidents significantly decreased, with near misses being reported and addressed promptly.
  2. Increased Employee Engagement: Workers actively participated in safety initiatives, contributing innovative ideas and becoming safety advocates in their respective teams.
  3. Improved Communication: A culture of open communication and trust flourished, enabling a seamless exchange of safety-related information.
  4. Safety as a Core Value: Safety became ingrained as a core value within the business, transcending mere compliance and becoming an integral part of the company’s identity.

And that was only the beginning:

Mark’s journey as a Safety Manager exemplified the immense impact of coaching, lasting behavioural change, and leadership in creating a safer and more fulfilling work environment.

His dedication to understanding the workforce’s behaviour, recognising their efforts, and nurturing safety leadership at all levels inspired business owners to embrace safety excellence.

Learning from Mark’s journey and remembering that everyone can influence positive change and build a culture of safety that empowers and protects individuals at work. Even you.

Together, we can make a lasting impact and create workplaces where safety is a value and a way of life.

Do you want to learn to be like Mark and help inspire safety excellence?

Get in touch today. I’m ready to help.

leadership coaching

Leadership Coaching: Lets unlock your true potential

Leadership coaching is a process that helps leaders develop their skills and abilities to improve their performance and the performance of their organisation.

The coaching relationship is typically between the leader and a professional coach, who may be an internal or external consultant. It is designed to help the leader identify areas for improvement, set goals, and develop action plans to achieve those goals.

Coaching may focus on specific skills or behaviours, such as communication, delegation, or problem-solving, or it may be more general in nature and address overall leadership development. The coach uses various techniques, such as active listening, questioning, and feedback, to help the leader gain insight and understanding and to support them in taking action.

Coaching can be delivered one-on-one, in groups, or in a team setting, depending on the needs of the organisation and the individuals involved.

Coaching is often used with other leadership development programs, such as training or mentoring.

Leadership coaching can significantly impact an individual leader’s performance and effectiveness. It can also benefit the organisation by improving communication, teamwork, and overall performance.

It’s important to note that leadership coaching is a partnership between the coach and the individual being coached. Successful outcomes often hinge on the rapport and trust between the two parties and the individuals willing to be open and receptive to feedback.

An example of leadership coaching in action

An example of leadership coaching in action is an executive coaching session with a Manager. The coach begins by helping the manager to identify areas where they want to improve as a leader. The manager realizes they struggle with delegating tasks effectively and maintaining good relationships with their team.

The coach works with the Manager to better understand their leadership style and how it impacts their team. Through this process, the manager realises that they have a tendency to micromanage, causing frustration and low morale among their team members.

The coach then helps the manager to develop a new, more effective approach to delegation, including setting clear expectations, providing adequate resources, and empowering team members to take ownership of their work. The coach also works with the manager to improve their communication and interpersonal skills to foster better relationships with their team.

Over time, the manager notices that their delegation skills have improved, and their team is more engaged and productive. The manager also feels more fulfilled and satisfied in their role as a leader.

This is an example of how leadership coaching can help leaders identify areas for improvement, develop new skills, and achieve their goals, leading to better outcomes for themselves and their organisation.

The different types of leadership coaching

Executive Coaching:

This type of coaching is tailored specifically to top-level executives and business leaders to help them improve their leadership skills, navigate organizational challenges, and achieve their professional goals.

Team Coaching:

This approach involves working with a group of leaders or team members to develop their collective leadership skills, improve team dynamics, and achieve common goals.

Transformational Coaching:

This type of coaching helps leaders transform their personal and professional lives by developing self-awareness, identifying limiting beliefs, and setting meaningful goals.

Servant Leadership Coaching:

This approach focuses on helping leaders develop a servant-oriented leadership style, where they prioritize the needs of their team and organization over their own.

Situational Leadership Coaching:

This type of coaching focuses on developing leaders’ skills in adapting their leadership style to different situations, individuals, and teams.

Values-Based Leadership Coaching:

This approach involves exploring and aligning a leader’s values with their leadership style, behaviours, and decisions, to create a more fulfilling and practical leadership experience.

Don’t miss a thing, and subscribe today!

Why not join hundreds of people like you who stay informed of the latest blogs, articles and more?

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Veritas Consulting friendly safety professionals

Why safety professionals need to be the friendliest people in the workplace

Firstly, let’s clarify that being friendly doesn’t mean you must be friends with employees.

Now we know safety professionals play a critical role in promoting a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. One important aspect of their job is building trust and positive relationships with workers to communicate safety information and foster a culture of safety effectively.

Being friendly and approachable can help break down barriers and create a more open, psychologically safe and inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing concerns or asking questions.

Additionally, a friendly and approachable safety professional may better identify and address potential safety hazards or issues, as workers are more likely to report them to someone they trust and without fear of retaliation.

Furthermore, they can help create a positive attitude and culture towards safety in the workplace, where everyone is willing to work together to keep themselves and others safe.

There are several ways that safety professionals can be the friendliest in the workplace and promote a positive culture of safety.

1. Be approachable:

This can be achieved by maintaining an open-door policy, being a good listener, being available to answer questions, and actively seeking out employee feedback.

2. Communicate effectively:

Clear and concise communication is key in any workplace, but it’s particularly important for safety professionals. They should communicate safety information in a way that is easy to understand and listen attentively to the employees.

An example

Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms. Speaking in simple language is like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes. It allows for easy movement and understanding, whereas using jargon and technical terms is like walking on stilts, it may impress some people, but it’s hard to keep up, and it can be off-putting for others.

Another helpful communication technique is being curious and asking open questions instead of saying, “Does that make sense to you” Ask, “What didn’t make sense to you” this approach encourages dialogue.

3. Encourage participation:

Safety professionals should actively involve employees in developing and implementing safety policies and procedures. This can help to build buy-in and promote a sense of ownership among employees. What can work well is asking employees for their input on improving things.

4. Trust and respect:

Being friendly demonstrates empathy and understanding that can help to build trust, respect and motivation among team members.

A tip

Make sure to check in regularly with your colleagues to see how they are doing both personally and professionally. for example, ask, “What did they get up to the weekend?” “How did the family party go” and “What can I do to help make your job easier?”

5. Lead by example:

Safety professionals should practice what they preach and set an excellent example regarding safety behaviour. This will show that they take safety seriously and can also help encourage employees to do the same.

6. Show recognition and appreciation:

Acknowledge and appreciate employees when they do something right regarding safety. Safety professionals should also recognise and reward good safety performance, which can help to boost morale and encourage employees to continue to work safely.

7. Use a sense of humour:

Professionally, using a sense of humour can help to build rapport and ease tension in the workplace, making it a more comfortable and inviting place for employees.

However, it’s important to note that being friendly doesn’t mean safety professionals must compromise on ethics, professional standards, and decision-making. Still, it helps them to lead and manage a team effectively. So can you be too friendly?

All these actions can help build positive relationships with employees, promote a culture of safety, and ultimately ensure a safe and healthy work environment.

Ask yourself: How friendly are you in the workplace?

Don’t miss a thing, and subscribe today!

Why not join hundreds of people like you who stay informed of the latest blogs, articles and more?

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Influencing work colleagues and ideas

The Power of Influence: How to make a positive impact in your workplace

Influencing a colleague at work can be challenging, but it’s an important skill to achieve common goals and build a positive working relationship. 

Here are a few strategies you can use to influence your colleagues:

  1. Communicate effectively: Ensure you are clear and concise when communicating with your colleagues. Use facts and data to support your ideas, and be open to feedback.
  2. Build a relationship: Take the time to get to know your colleague on a personal basis. Find common ground and create opportunities to work together. Building trust and respect will make it easier to influence them.
  3. Lead by example: Show your colleague you are committed and dedicated to your work. Be a positive role model and demonstrate the desired behaviour or attitude you want them to adopt.
  4. Use persuasive language: Use persuasive language to present your ideas in a way that will be more likely to be accepted. For example, use words and phrases that emphasize the benefits of your proposal, such as “this will improve efficiency” or “this will increase productivity.”
  5. Show the benefits: Show your colleague how your ideas will benefit them and the company. This will make it easier for them to see the value in what you are proposing.
  6. Be flexible: Be willing to compromise and find a middle ground. Listen to your colleague’s concerns and find a solution that addresses both of your needs.
  7. Seek support: Seek the support of others who may be able to influence your colleagues. For example, if you have a good relationship with your manager, they may be able to offer their support.

By using these strategies, you can effectively influence your colleagues and work towards achieving common goals. Always be respectful and professional in your interactions and open to feedback and new ideas.

If you want help and learn how to influence colleagues, don’t hesitate to contact us and ask about our safety coaching program.

Safety Coaching and leadership development in construction

How to approach employees not following the safety rules and improve safety culture

Let’s set the scene.

Senior company executives are concerned that their sites aren’t being managed effectively and want to know what can be done to improve safety performance and develop the organisational safety culture.

It’s a busy construction site in the middle of the city centre, and employees are using noisy tools and equipment that creates dust, working from Stepladders, Scaffolding Towers, and the PPE provided to protect their health and welfare is not being worn, and the site rules are not being followed properly – Get the picture? Okay.

My immediate question is, “Why and how are these employees allowed to work in this manner?”

And my next question is, “At what point did the employees decide to work at risk and what were their reasons for this behaviour?”

What works for me

When engaging with the employees, I would approach them, introduce who I was, and ask them to talk me through what they were doing. I would ask about their background (where the employee is from, family, hobbies, etc.).

Next, I would ask about how long they have been working for the company and how long they have been on the site. Then I would ask about their co-workers to get an insight from their point of view.

I would also ask about their supervisor/manager to understand their relationships. And after getting to know them a bit more. I’d ask the employees about “near miss reporting” and what that would mean to them.

Unless there was an imminent danger to an employee… I would not address the PPE issues or the site rules directly with an individual. I would end the conversations there with the entire team.

Onto the management

Next, I would have a private conversation with the site manager/supervisor to understand their knowledge of and relationship with the employees and their knowledge of the company policy, site rules and procedures.

Part of that conversation is to bring to the manager’s/supervisors’ attention the at-risk observations and employees’ concerns, discuss safety coaching techniques that can help improve the organisational safety culture – and provide them with a leadership development opportunity and strategy to engage the employees, correct the issues, and lead.

Finally, followed by a feedback session with the senior executives to discuss the findings and the solutions offered, how these would work in practice, encourage them to get involved and commit to a continuous safety improvement program.

Does that sound interesting to you?

When you’re ready to improve your organisational safety culture with coaching and strategy get in touch using the contact form below.

High 5 - what good health and safety looks like

What does good health and safety look like

In the health and safety industry, we sometimes get so focused on hammering our point home that we forget to acknowledge the good stuff.

Although we have a long way to go in the UK to ensure a truly safe working environment for everyone, many businesses across the country have truly dedicated themselves to building a positive culture of health and safety and are reaping the rewards.

This blog will take an in-depth look at what good health and safety looks like and what you can do to achieve it.

Not just doom and gloom

Health and safety professionals have a lot of responsibility to ensure the safety of others, which goes some way to explaining why we get quite passionate when we talk about health and safety.

But there’s a lot of good news in the health and safety industry. For example, the RoSPA Health and Safety Awards highlight fantastic and notable efforts by companies and health and safety professionals going above and beyond to protect employees.

These awards are not just great press but also a fantastic way of benchmarking safety achievements, improving team morale, and winning new tenders and clients. Britsafe and the SHP run similar awards schemes highlighting health and safety success in all areas.

What does good health and safety look like?

Fundamentally, health and safety encompass how businesses, employers, building owners and more can keep those in their care safe.

This can mean regularly carrying out risk assessments, communicating those risk assessments with workers clearly, and investing in the right training and equipment to help them carry out their job safely.

A pet peeve of mine is the hijacking of health and safety to excuse all manner of bad management, lack of training, and laziness. Health and safety isn’t some nebulous label you can whack on anything you like to keep customers out, but a set of (mostly) very clear, sensible guidelines that require duty holders to invest in relevant safety measures.

Britsafe’s ‘What Does Good Health and Safety Look Like?’ guidance highlights a few areas that an organisation dedicated to health and safety will excel.

People are aware of any significant risks.

Communication is a crucial part of health and safety, and a business dedicated to health and safety will boast employees who are well aware of dangers. As well as this, everyone will be clear about who is responsible for what and understand the specific consequences of not following guidelines.

Leaders visibly promote health and safety and involve people

A truly effective culture of health and safety comes from the top. Leaders will be engaged with safety briefings, updates, and campaigns, showing genuine interest beyond their legal obligations, and encouraging others to get involved.

Some managers have extra risk management skills

One of the most important safety rules for businesses is the requirement for a ‘competent person’, essentially, someone with the skills and training to oversee activities and help and advise where needed.

A company dedicated to its health and safety will have more than one competent person and invest in managers and supervisors to ensure they’re all equipped to manage risk.

Key points

Mostly, good health and safety comes down to a few key things:

  • Communication: Everyone should be in the loop and communicate problems when they arise to find a solution. People should feel comfortable highlighting gaps in safety processes because there is no blame culture.
  • Preparation: Time should be taken before the job starts to properly assess the situation, identify risks, and communicate them via a detailed but straightforward risk assessment.
  • Commitment to training and coaching: Health and safety training should go beyond box ticking exercises and be engaging. Employees should receive basic training, ongoing bespoke support, relevant coaching, and achievable goals that encourage safe behaviour.
  • Peoplework, not paperwork: The people involved are the riskiest part of any health and safety system. People are unpredictable and mercurial and will often justify anything if it means getting the job done quicker. Overcoming this requires risk managers to view people not as statistics but as individual human beings with different triggers, needs, and wants and customise health and safety communications to them wherever possible.
  • Teamwork: Everyone in the company should understand that processes are in place to protect them and those around them, not to make work more complicated. When everyone has a reason to care and the skills they need to stay safe, commitment is far more likely.

A neverending story

Encouraging genuinely effective health and safety requires businesses to move from the standard ‘man with a clipboard’, online training quota-based education style of static risk management to a more inclusive, ongoing strategy.

Safety should not be the responsibility of one person. Still, a subconscious thing everyone implements into their day-to-day reassured that it’s not a pointless exercise in box-ticking but a well-thought-out system of reasonable measures designed to keep them and their colleagues safe.

The first step in building a comprehensive, beneficial culture of safety is identifying where you’re going wrong and right with the help of a safety risk management expert. Do you want to discuss your safety needs and step towards a safer future? Get in touch today, and let’s chat.

Managing Stress and mental health at work

Mental Health At Work: How Can Managers Protect Employee Mental Health?

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in risk assessments and other everyday health and safety management that we forget about the people involved.

H&S isn’t just about avoiding physical injury. The goal is to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone onsite, to ensure they can do their job without risk or discomfort to themselves or others – this includes mental health.

In just a few short years, we’ve come a long way regarding mental health at work, but we still have a long way to go. One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives, potentially triggered or exacerbated by work.

Managers should be putting as much emphasis on mental health as they do on physical health if they want to achieve a truly effective health and safety culture.

Do employers have a legal obligation to protect the mental health of workers?

For a start, it’s worth highlighting that any business satisfied with doing the bare minimum the law requires probably isn’t all that bothered about their health and safety. However, it’s good for managers to refresh their knowledge of the law every so often to ensure they’re still on the up and up, no matter how invested they are in risk management.

The simple answer is that employers have a legal responsibility to ensure workers are not working under undue stress or pressure.

Anxiety and depression, the two most common mental health issues, can be triggered by issues at work. Over time, without treatment, stress at work can lead to physical and psychological damage.

That’s not good for the employee or the employer. It can lead to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and even physical harm due to distraction or exhaustion.

No matter whether work is causing the issue or exacerbating an existing issue, employers are legally required under legislation to manage it as they would any other risk.

According to the HSE: ‘Work-related mental health issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable.’

Employers may also find that they have additional legal requirements under other legislation to protect workers’ mental health, such as equalities legislation.

The fact is that the HSE views mental health as no less important than physical health and expects employers to act accordingly.

What can employers do to protect the mental health of employees?

In 2017, the government commissioned the ‘Thriving at Work’ report, which laid out a framework of actions that employers and risk managers should implement to protect the mental health of workers. These guidelines state that employers must:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan which promotes good mental health for all employees and clearly outlines the support available for those who want or need it
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools, and support accessible
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and support available, from recruitment and at regular intervals. Employees should be offered appropriate workplace adjustments if needed
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work/life balance, as well as opportunities for development
  • Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have regular conversations about their health and wellbeing with managers, supervisors, or leaders, and train and support managers to effectively manage mental health issues
  • Monitor employee mental health and wellbeing based on available data, talk to employees and understand risk factors

What these very in-depth guidelines boil down to is this:

  • Have a mental health plan
  • Promote communication and open conversations about mental health by raising awareness and reducing stigma
  • Implement a way to monitor actions and outcomes to inform future decisions

Another set of HSE Guidelines, the Management Standards, also includes a framework for managers to manage mental health at work better.

You can read more here.

What does this mean in practice?

Like most things in health and safety, managing mental health at work comes down to treating your employees like people, not statistics.

Those responsible for managing risks must be aware of who is working onsite, not just as a name on a clipboard, but as a person.

This is perhaps even more crucial when it comes to mental health. Often, safety managers can identify physical risks from a standard visual inspection and tackle them then and there. Unfortunately, mental health is very personal, and too many suffer in silence or fall through the cracks. Symptoms might not begin to show until it’s too late.

By treating employees as people and regularly talking with them person-to-person rather than communicating through PowerPoint, you can more easily identify struggling employees and provide the help and support they need.

Managers should also strive to ensure psychological safety onsite. Employees must feel comfortable coming forward with physical or mental issues without fear of reproach or punishment.

If an employee is not certain they can safely bring issues to your attention, they won’t, and the problem will continue to fester until something goes very wrong.

Fundamentally, suppose the employee’s mental health is impacted by work, such as poor management, excessive workload, or bullying. In that case, immediate action should be taken to remove or remedy the trigger.

Just as employees should not be expected to work under the threat of physical harm, no employee should be expected to do a job that harms their mental health.

Get in touch today via the contact form below to learn more about how better to manage people and mental health issues at work or discuss your health and safety needs.


Opening Pandora’s Box: Are Numerical Risk Assessments Any Good?

Last month I caused a bit of a furore over on my LinkedIn when I shared this post:

David Cant Linkedin

Although I was aware that this opinion goes against the grain somewhat, I was surprised by the magnitude of the response. With over 400 comments and 600 reactions, it’s fair to say that a lot of my fellow safety professionals had a lot to say!

Why would you say such a thing?

Because it’s true! I’ve built a career out of urging business leaders and safety professionals to look beyond numbers and instead take a straightforward, people-first approach to risk management.

Quantitative and numerical risk assessments – though common – go against one of my fundamental core beliefs: risk assessments should be, above all, a simple and practical method of managing the risk of harm, not made for safety professionals themselves but for those on the frontline.

Numerical risk assessments are far removed from the reality of dynamic, ever-changing workplaces. Time spent juggling numbers and calculations for task-based activities adds no real value, providing a mostly baseless, needlessly specific view of things and generally overcomplicating the process.

Too many safety professionals complexify when they should be simplifying, stuffing risk assessments full of figures to show their work. When the assessment finally makes it into the hands of those that need it, it’s just too complicated to make proper use of.

Will the control measures implemented change all that much based on a 5 point difference when the obvious answer to ‘there’s no edge protection’ is usually ‘install edge protection’?

Instead of this incessant focus on the numbers and back-and-forth over whether a risk is a low 2, low 3, or medium 4, I believe safety professionals should instead be striving for a simple but effective hazard + risk + solution approach, encouraging and enabling those that are trained and competent to work safely.

The magic of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is, of course, a communication platform, and you might not be surprised to learn that plenty of people disagreed with me. Although the quality of debate on social media can be hit or miss, to put it mildly, there were some fantastic, thoughtful responses worth considering.

David Cant Linkedin 3

This one, for example, highlights that it’s important to remember that, ultimately, risk assessment is subjective, and there’s no one right way to do things.

Different methods have shortcomings which can be overcome by combining them with other strategies. I agree that some sort of framework is necessary, but feel that the obsession with numbers continues to hold us back more than it helps. Nevertheless, I agree that coaching employees and empowering them to make the right choices is by far the best option. I just don’t think boxes full of numbers are the way to do that.

David cant linkedin 4

Who indeed?

David Cant Risk assessment

One from the ‘I agree with David’ camp. A risk is a risk, no matter your subjective opinion of the severity. Again, how likely is it that the measures put in place will change based on whether you personally decide it’s a 3 or 30?

David Cant risk assessment 2

Another interesting point. Risk assessments are not for identifying and accounting for every single thing that can go wrong – because that’s impossible – but for identifying the most likely risks and triaging your response to them.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t explain why numerical assessments are better than your standard low, medium, and high grades, or a qualitative assessment. Surely whoever receives the risk assessment at the other end has enough to go on without chucking a load of numbers into the mix?

The mood of the negative responses seemed to translate to one question: ‘well, do you have a better option?’ and that’s fair. Numerical, quantitative risk assessments are as common as they are because there aren’t a huge amount of alternatives.

But does that mean we should continue to rely on something that isn’t fit for purpose?

What’s the alternative?

Ultimately, despite all the arguments for and against them, I still haven’t yet gotten a straight answer to why numerical risk matrices are beneficial. People seem to either hate them or begrudgingly accept them because there are no better options.

The example I used in my post was a real matrix I received from a bricklayer, who admitted to me that he was just ‘number crunching’, and wasn’t actually sure what tangible benefits there were to it. Neither was his site manager. If whoever is filling in the risk assessment isn’t sure why it matters, what’s the point?

Risk assessments should be about making life easier for the worker, equipping them with the resources to make informed decisions. It shouldn’t be a box-ticking exercise (or, in this case, a ‘fill the boxes with numbers’ exercise) but a logical, clear examination of risk.

I think that moving forward, we should make an effort as an industry to simplify a lot of the procedures we’ve become accustomed to, particularly when it comes to risk assessments.

By switching to qualitative risk assessments, where the focus is on clearly and succinctly listing potential risks alongside relevant solutions, we can enable those using the risk assessments to make better, safer decisions, and more generally create a healthier culture around safety.

For ways to simplify your risk assessments and maximise the safety of those using them, check out my blog on avoiding risk assessment bloat over on the Veritas Consulting website. If you’d like more advice on how to assess risk effectively in your business, get in touch.

PS: Here is the post on my on my LinkedIn

Safety Coaching for Managers by David Cant

Coach, Don’t Manage: Working Together For A Healthier Safety Culture

If you’ve ever read my blog or seen one of my posts on LinkedIn, you’ll know that I firmly believe in coaching, not managing. But what do I actually mean by this?

I am a big advocate of honest, open communication in the workplace, no matter your role because I know it can make or break a business. This goes double for those responsible for safety, as communication can often be the difference between life or death.

Long gone are the days when it was fine for safety managers to walk around, clipboard in hand, shouting orders and telling people off for not wearing their hard hats. To have any impact, these managers should instead be asking themselves why that person wasn’t wearing their hard hat in the first place.

Coaching comes in; a more diplomatic, empathic way of doing things to get the best out of your team.

However, I know this management style doesn’t always come easily. The good news is that these skills can be learnt, and with an open mind and a willingness to change, safety managers can shift the way they do things and ensure a safer workplace.

Change things up

Sometimes, when things don’t seem to be working, a change in mindset is all it takes.

Empowering people to reach their conclusion, make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions can be far more effective than telling them the answer.

Rather than drilling the ‘right’ answer into employees, managers should be focused on empowering others to make their own reasoned choices and make daily safety tasks subconscious.

This subverts the idea that employees should ‘do as they’re told and instead equips them with the ability to act independently and dynamically, freeing managers to take a more effective big picture approach rather than getting bogged down in the day-to-day.

Get to know your people.

I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t know who your people are, what makes them tick, and their ‘why’, your efforts will always be in vain.

Everyone is different and has their reasons for doing what they do, and something that works for one person will not work for another. This is why cut and paste safety briefings are so ineffective.

You will never learn anything about your team by locking yourself in an office and waiting for them to ask for help. Showing you care, engaging with colleagues, asking questions – not just about the workplace but about their lives too – and offering guidance is a far more effective strategy.

Take time to walk and talk with co-workers and keep them up to date with developments. It shows that you care about them as people can work miracles though it takes commitment and patience.

Your involvement and genuine interest in who they are will result in an engaged team that will want to work with you and take your advice on board. Building relationships is a superpower that not enough managers take advantage of.

Ensure your employees have the information they need

As a safety manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that colleagues have access to the latest safety regulations and procedures and the relevant training that will help them build a stronger safety culture together.

This sounds easier said than done, however. We all know how easy it is to throw a few PowerPoint presentations together and call it ‘safety training’. But unfortunately, such training is rarely put together with the worker in mind, and most workers will zone out before they take it in.

When putting together training materials, you should know who your audience is, their pain points, and which training method they’ll respond to best. Don’t overwhelm them with things they don’t need to know.

By giving employees relevant information and training so that they can put it into practice, you’ll be equipping them to respond to situations safely and dynamically, ultimately reducing the time and financial cost of micro-managing.

Show, don’t tell

Think about coaching this way: you are like a parent who needs to teach their children the life skills they need to figure out how to do things independently. Although it feels more straightforward and quicker to tell someone exactly what to do and how to do it, you’re just creating further problems down the line.

With this method, you’ll more than likely have to give specific instructions repeatedly. This is unpleasant and frustrating for everyone involved: no one likes being told what to do, especially repeatedly. They’ll tune out.

Micromanaging people discourages initiative, engagement, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

Instead, here are a few things you should focus on:

  • First, listen to what your team says and learn their pain points. Listening will help you come up with more helpful solutions.
  • Ask open questions, don’t just assume things – if you need more information or clarification, don’t be afraid to ask. Similarly, some individuals find it difficult to express their concerns or might not know where to start in conversations. But, again, asking the right questions can lead to a more fruitful discussion.
  • Give feedback. This is essential for improvement as it helps things move along. Focus on constructive feedback.
  • Show empathy. When we struggle or make mistakes, being shown empathy helps us unblock, move on, and learn. Showing empathy will help guide your team out of the slump and closer to your desired goal.

Use mistakes as learning opportunities.

Everyone makes mistakes. The safety industry itself was built on learning from our mistakes, so it’s only fair to continue to use mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failings.

No one wants accidents to happen, but when they do, your goal is to understand why the incident happened and work with the people involved to prevent it from happening again.

As a safety manager, you need to accept that mistakes happen. However, you should also do your best to use them as learning opportunities rather than automatically resorting to discipline.

If the same person continues to make the same mistakes, there is probably a bigger issue. Perhaps the person does not fit into your safety culture. But if it’s the first time, you have a golden opportunity to look at the circumstances around the incident and work with the person to make sure it does not happen again.

As a safety coach, your goal should always be to work with people towards better safety practices, not against them.

Keep investing in yourself.

As with any skill, practice makes perfect, which goes for coaching. No one is born a brilliant coach, and there should be no shame in admitting that you need improvement.

Many managers might not even be aware that they lack skills, and some might even think they are great coaches when the reality is different. As coaches and leaders, we need to develop the kind of self-awareness that will help us improve.

Checking in from time to time, asking for feedback from teams or direct managers, and keeping up with training needs is paramount for building a successful career that helps people create safer workplaces.

Get advice from the experts.

I’ve spent the last two decades working closely with safety managers and supervisors to teach them the skills they need to help develop their people and get the best out of them, ultimately ensuring a safer environment.

If you think you might benefit from learning the skills to be more coach-like, get in touch.

Safety coaching, talks and briefings

Five Tips For More Engaging Safety Briefings

Briefings are crucial for creating an effective culture of safety and communicating the important messages colleagues need to hear.

Without proper communication, people can fall out of the loop with procedures, rules, and updates, which can, in turn, put them at risk of serious injury or worse. When people are on the same page, you expect things to run smoothly.

But safety briefings have a reputation for being, well, dull. When most people who aren’t safety managers hear those words, they immediately think of endless Powerpoints and the dreaded flip chart.

I’ve worked with safety managers for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve noticed that very skilled and knowledgeable individuals often struggle when it comes to communicating that knowledge to others. This is understandable, as these are two different things, and not all of us are born with the gift of the gab.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that if people aren’t switched on and engaged when you’re talking about something important, they’re unlikely to take it in – even if it might save their life. They have to be hooked onto the topic instantly, and people will ask themselves, “what’s in it for me?” WIIFM, if it’s nothing, you’ve lost them before starting.

Thankfully, there are a few ways safety managers can change things up to communicate better, get people engaged with safety briefings, and ultimately ensure a safer workplace.

Tip 1: Know your audience

Although some might disagree, I believe that safety managers should be salespeople too. It’s no good knowing what needs to be done if you can’t communicate it in a way your audience can understand and buy into.

One of the most important things any salesman needs is understanding their audience. They can’t use the same pitch for everyone, as the needs and experiences of their client will depend on who they are and where they come from.

The same goes for health and safety. You will need to amend your ‘pitch’ depending on whether you present to leadership, middle management, or employees.

For example, briefings with those at the coalface will generally focus on daily exposure to risks, how to avoid them, and why they must follow procedures. Conversely, briefings with leadership should be more general and consider how changes to policy might impact the long-term running of the business.

Those in different business areas have other priorities, and your briefings need to reflect this.

Understanding the people you work with is integral to health and safety. You need to ensure you see colleagues as people, not statistics, as only then can you begin to communicate with them in a way that will be effective.

Tip 2: Minimise the Powerpoints

It can be easy to get carried away with PowerPoint. Unfortunately, too many safety managers pack everything into their presentations, resulting in verbatim repetition from slides that are far too busy, boring most people to the brink of sleep.

Powerpoints shouldn’t be your entire briefing. Instead, they should support your briefing with essential information, allowing you to expand on the subjects more engagingly.

According to Guy Kawasaki, former Apple founder and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Powerpoints should adhere to a 10/20/30 rule. That means:

  • no more than 10 slides
  • no longer than 20 minutes total
  • and, perhaps most importantly, presentations should not contain text in a font size smaller than 30 points.

This ensures that you don’t try to cram too much information into the presentation itself, avoiding “death by Powerpoint”. Any information that can’t be included in your presentation should be given as a handout afterwards.

Tip 3: Watch your body language

We’re not all born presenters, and that’s fine, but one thing that it pays dividends to focus on is your body language.

Body language can be both conscious and subconscious and influences our interactions daily and during presentations more than you’d think. For example, the wrong body language, such as slouching, lack of eye contact, or crossed arms, can negatively influence your audience and turn them off.

Conversely, confident body language such as better posture and eye contact will engage people.

Body language is a huge topic, but you can start by paying attention to your physical actions during your next briefing and keeping an eye on how your audience responds to you. You might be surprised.

Tip 4: Get people involved

No one likes being talked at, and if your briefings consist of you standing at the front, droning on for an hour, you’ve already lost the battle.

Instead, you should make an effort to get people involved in the briefing. This can be small, such as getting people to guess answers or even using role-plays to illustrate new procedures. If people expect to be called on, they’ll be more engaged.

A very effective way to do this is to invite opinions about current safety processes as a sort of forum. This gives people a chance to share their thoughts and will, in turn, show that your business values their input. In addition, if people are involved in implementing rules from the start, they’re more likely to follow them.

Listening is a valuable weapon in any safety manager’s arsenal, and you should make the most of it.

Tip 5: Keep things moving

According to a study by Skipton Building Society, the average person has an attention span of just 14 minutes. However, in work meetings, they generally zone out after 13 minutes, like safety briefings.

Leading public speaking consultants and media training company Throughline Group suggest that a good presenter can hold an audience’s attention on a relevant topic for a paltry seven to 10 minutes. How long was your last presentation?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should cut your briefings down to a few minutes, just that you should be conscious of attention spans and ensure regular transitions and breaks to keep your audience engaged. You can change things by moving to a new position, asking the audience a question, or just shifting to a new topic.

Remember that even the most talented presenters can only keep things moving for so long, so try not to spin the plates forever and drag your briefing out. Remember, people have other priorities, and if they feel that you’re taking up an unreasonable amount of their time, you’ll lose them.

These skills can be learned.

Many people assume being good at engaging others is something you’re born with. While it’s true people can be taken with a magnetic personality, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can employ to communicate more effectively in safety briefings and beyond.

My safety coaching package includes modules on how to communicate safety to engage others and, more importantly, keep them engaged, whether you’re talking to employees or employers. So if that sounds like something that might be beneficial to you, get in touch.

man walking a tight rope

The Types of Risk-Taker and How To Spot Them

As a health and safety manager, it’s frustrating when near misses or accidents occur because someone took an unnecessary risk.

Whether it’s because someone failed to use the right equipment, cut corners, or was simply cavalier with their own safety and the safety of those around them, the consequences of risk-taking can be dire.

Your first response in these situations, understandably, might be to punish the person responsible for choosing to take that risk. But, if you look deeper, you might find that things aren’t quite that straightforward.

The Human Factor

In my twenty years as a risk management consultant, I’ve come to understand that – as with most things – the most unpredictable part of safety is the people involved. I call this the ‘Human Factor’, and it’s one of the first things I communicate to new clients when I start working with them.

Take cars, for example. Over the past few decades, carmakers have invested combined trillions of pounds into making their vehicles as safe as possible, implementing a plethora of fancy gadgets to aid drivers in getting from A to B safely. But for all the money, time, and science, all it takes is one person not paying attention for a split second to cause a terrible accident.

And it’s the same with health and safety at work: all it takes is one person deciding to go off-script for an incident to occur.

Unfortunately, as easy as it is to view all risk-takers as mavericks with no care for themselves or others, this view fails to consider how complex human beings can be.

To implement truly effective safety procedures, you need to understand the people you work with, their place in the system, and the reasons they might take a risk at work. Are they just being willfully ignorant, or are there other factors at play?

There are a few types of risk-takers

The Maverick

Let’s start with the stereotypical risk-taker. Usually overconfident, this person thinks they’re above the law and invincible. We’ve all heard the adage, ‘this is the way I’ve done it for years. Why should I change now?’

They might think ‘health and safety has gone mad’, too. But, it’s their way or the highway, which means they’ll take every opportunity to ‘forget’ their PPE or grab a ladder to ‘sort something quickly’.

It can be challenging to know how to handle these types of risk-taker. You might catch them on their phones during safety briefings, and one-to-ones with them usually end in an argument or a half-hearted, unconvincing ‘OK mate’.

I generally advise against punishing people when things go wrong, as it only leads to pushback and a very negative view of safety. However, suppose after reasonably explaining the reasons behind the procedures, they continue to take risks, putting themselves and others in danger. In that case, your only option might be to get upper management involved for a serious talk and potential dismissal.

This type of risk-taker is why involving health and safety in the recruitment process is so vital. Managers should be doing everything they can to ensure that new hires will (or can) fit in well with the existing safety culture.

We have the Time Saver

This person will cut corners to get a job done quicker, skipping safe choices in risk assessments or using an inferior form of access system because it takes less time to set up. All the risks they take are in service of getting things done quickly. There could be two reasons behind this.

One, the person wants to get home faster. They might not think much of a few missed steps here and there, so it can be as simple as taking them to one side and explaining the danger they’re putting themselves and others in.

Interestingly, they might actually have some good ideas about improving efficiency. By working together with them, you could identify areas where time could be saved in a safe manner. But, again, punishment should be a last resort.

More seriously, it could be a sign that employees are under pressure to do their job quicker, usually from upper management. All the well-intentioned safety procedures in the world won’t do a thing if employees are all but told to put themselves at risk or lose their job. This is unacceptable and should be raised with management immediately.

If you feel that this is happening in your organisation and your concerns are being ignored, you can anonymously report safety failings to the HSE.

And the Innocent

When safety breaks down, it’s important to ask yourself whether the person in the middle of it all is actually at fault or if the problem lies elsewhere – which is more likely.

A near-miss occurs because someone was in the wrong area, not using the right equipment, or because a machine inspection wasn’t undertaken. It’s possible that the Maverick was involved, or the Time Saver was looking to get out by lunch, but it’s equally likely that the person involved didn’t know.

Businesses are a complex web of constant communication, and the biggest organisations can potentially have thousands of people working closely together. So first, think about how many emails get missed each day; now, consider how many of those emails contain important information.

Although health and safety is, at its heart, just common sense, there can be a lot of information to take in. For example, it’s entirely possible the person involved in the incident missed a new safety briefing updating everyone on the latest maintenance timetable or how a specific type of PPE is now required.

This once again comes down to treating employees like people rather than numbers. A 97% take-up rate on the latest online safety sessions sounds fine, but in a business of 500 people, that’s 15 potential risk takers out in the world who might not even know they’re about to do something wrong.

It would be best to make health and safety communication as personal as possible to get your workers involved. You can be sure that everyone is on board and, more importantly, understands why procedures are being implemented.

I know this is easier said than done in larger businesses. Still, the onus is on both safety managers to communicate the resources they need to ensure this level of communication and on management to provide the resources requested. The initial cost might be higher, but trust me, it’s far lower than the potential cost of having several ticking time bombs out on site.

It’s about people

It can be easy to get wrapped up in safety bulletins and statistics. But, ultimately, health and safety is about people. So understanding your employees and why they might put themselves and others at risk should be every risk management expert’s priority. Only then can you put the right safety systems in place.

I’ve been a safety consultant for more than two decades, and in that time, I’ve seen every type of risk-taker there is. So for impartial and independent advice on better managing and coaching people as a safety manager, get in touch.

Health and safety recruitment

Why health and safety should be considered in the hiring process

When they hear ‘health and safety’, most people – particularly managers – immediately jump to fire drills, risk assessments and box-ticking. But health and safety in the workplace is far more than that.

A positive health and safety culture can improve productivity, profitability, client and stakeholder satisfaction, lower staff turnover, and so much more. It’s key to get it right, and part of that is bringing in new staff that share a commitment to building and upholding that culture.

Good health and safety practices ultimately benefit your whole workforce, whether through procedures that directly impact them or by reducing staff absences creating a more efficient site. In addition, research shows workplaces that prioritise health and safety have more productive workers. Therefore, bringing in individuals who have the same emphasis and commitment to health and safety is advantageous to your entire team.

Attitude to risk

A commitment or passion for something is hard to ascertain from a CV alone, and understandably, skills and knowledge relevant to the role are usually prioritised over health and safety.

Nevertheless, including one or two safety-relevant questions in the interview process can be hugely beneficial and can help build a team dedicated to working towards a strong health and safety culture. In addition, interviews are the perfect place to find out more about your candidates as people, beyond their CV, especially their attitude to risk.

Of course, you aren’t going to turn down a prime candidate because they’re a fan of skydiving. But if they’re consistently brushing over health and safety details when asked specific questions, it begins to build a risk profile that you can use to determine a candidate’s suitability.

When a person is being blasé about health and safety and procedures in an interview, you can bet that they’ll be taking risks and not following policies in the workplace. So excluding that risk at the interview stage will undoubtedly create a safer workplace.

Knowledge and qualifications

CVs are limited in detail they can give, which is why asking health and safety questions in the interview process is crucial. However, the information they can provide goes beyond qualifications. You can use your questions to find out what hands-on experience they’ve got, either at handling emergencies or setting up procedures to minimise risk in the first place.

Opening a discussion around health and safety allows you to explore their knowledge so you can be sure if you bring them into your team, they’re committed to building and maintaining a health and safety culture.

Value led interviewing

There is a growing trend of employees wanting to work for companies that share their values and beliefs. Having questions in an interview that explore an employee’s values and allow you to share yours makes it far more likely that you’ll attract new starters who have the same commitment to health and safety.

If your staff truly believe in creating a health and safety culture, it becomes far easier to embed in day to day activities.

How can you include health and safety in the process?

  • Structured, competency-based questions

Often the success of an interview comes down to the questions asked. By using structured, competency-based questions, you can probe their health and safety experience, understanding and qualifications.

The exact questions you ask can be tailored to the job and industry you operate. For example, you could ask them to tell you about how they implemented health and safety procedures in their previous role, or you could broaden it to ask them to explain a time when they had to consider health and safety. Both will very quickly give you an indication of their involvement and understanding of health and safety.

  • Included in all interviews regardless of level

This is crucial. For a health and safety culture to become embedded in everything you do, it must come from the top. A policy stating health and safety questions will be asked at all interviews will start to help this happen.

It’s no good having entry-level employees who are passionate about health and safety, only for a manager to put an end to it because they’ve got no interest.

  • Accessible interviews

Health and safety are more than procedures; it also covers employees and their working conditions and needs.

A great way to attract the right people to your business is through demonstrating you mean what you say. Asking someone for an interview and immediately asking about any accessibility needs and considerations that need to be considered does just that. Actions speak far louder than words and you taking the first step shows just how important that health and safety culture is to you.

Building a safety culture with the right people

Attitudes towards health and safety are difficult to change, however, if you are serious about cultivating a strong health and safety culture, bringing in people with the right perspective and knowledge.

It goes further than that, however. It’s about setting up the structure and expectation from the start – asking at all levels about their experience and making sure your interview process is truly inclusive. Then, when you start asking a few questions designed to probe that area, you’ll be in an excellent position to make the right decision for your business.

If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch. I’ve been working with businesses of all shapes and sizes for decades, helping them achieve a broader, more inclusive safety culture. I can help you identify the right questions to ask in your interview to ensure you’re hiring the right people.

Get in touch using the contact form above, or send me a WhatsApp message or text on 07814 203 977.

Construction workers

Replacing Paperwork With Peoplework: How To Engage Employees With Safety

Health and safety management can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. Although most people understand that it plays an important part in keeping us safe, when there are a million things to do and little time to do them, it can easily fall by the wayside.

This is particularly frustrating for health and safety managers, who invest their time and effort into creating comprehensive safety processes to protect workers, only for employees to ignore them or cry ‘health and safety gone mad!’

That said, sometimes health and safety management can be ineffective not because employees aren’t willing to engage with it but because it’s not designed to be engaged with. Unfortunately, too many managers are clinging to the old ways of clipboards, official notices, and hundred-page Powerpoints.

Of course, this information is usually crucial: safety managers must communicate processes to employees. But, let’s be honest, no one really benefits from hour-long lectures on proper hi-viz usage or a fly-by clipboard assault because they forgot to reverse into a parking space that morning.

Instead, if safety managers want to see real buy-in from employees, they need to step away from the paperwork and focus on people instead, with different methods of getting staff engaged with safety.

Peoplework, Not Paperwork

In my two decades as a safety consultant, I’ve consistently extolled the virtues to my clients of seeing employees not as statistics but as people.

The Human Factor is one of the most unpredictable aspects of any safety process, as there are a million reasons why a person might act in an unsafe manner beyond laziness or malice. To overcome this, safety managers must understand their employees as people to better identify triggers for unsafe behaviour. You can read more about the Human Factor here.

By understanding – and communicating with – employees as people rather than numbers, you’ll find they are more willing to engage with your safety culture.

So, what are some of the best ways to ensure employees see health and safety as a benefit rather than a hindrance?

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement measures the dedication and commitment to your organisation. This goes beyond safety management and usually requires a culture where employees feel like their work is worthwhile and appreciated.

If employees are engaged, they are more likely to respond to and engage with the safety culture. With a personal interest in creating a safe place to work, they will make an effort to listen to safety managers and follow procedures at all times, not just when they are being watched.

To get employees to listen to what you’re saying, you need to go beyond the employees themselves and encourage those at a higher level to ensure everyone feels appreciated. The benefits of an engaged workforce go beyond safety culture, creating higher productivity levels, lower staff turnover, and more, and should be a priority for all businesses.

Seek Employee Input

Employee participation in safety is a crucial but often overlooked part of safety management. Fundamentally, people care more about something if they’ve had a hand in building it.

A great way to do this is by establishing Health and Safety Committees. Employees themselves take part in safety management and have real input in putting safety processes in place.

Health and Safety Committees are a powerful way to improve your safety processes. Although you might have an in-depth understanding of your own business, employees can bring a ground-level perspective and advise on safer and more efficient ways to carry out work.

In fact, Health and Safety Committees are now considered a basic requirement for any organisation seeking to achieve the ISO 45001 international safety standard.

It’s recommended that safety managers have minimal input in these committees to ensure a sense of ownership for employees and a more independent, official representation directly to management.

Acknowledge Employee Feedback

Not every employee has the time or inclination to be a part of a safety committee, but safety managers must make sure their input is still openly valued.

I have previously talked about psychological safety in the workplace and how important it is that employees feel comfortable bringing issues and potential safety failures to the top brass without fear of punishment. The last thing you want is an employee having a potentially fatal near miss, only to fail to report it because they’re expecting a black mark.

Crucially, when employees report potential safety failings, ensure you recognise their input and then immediately act on it. By not showing willingness to act on feedback, you’ll only serve to reduce the number of employees who think reporting is worthwhile.

Safety managers can’t be everywhere at once – and shouldn’t be – so creating a culture where employees feel listened to should be a priority for everyone.

Provide Relevant Training and Opportunites For Growth

You might think you’re already doing this quite well, but too many safety managers think they can get away with mandating a few online safety lessons a month and calling it a day. Not all training is relevant to every employee, and, let’s be honest, no one wants to sit at a computer watching a slew of safety videos from the 90s.

Again, this comes down to knowing your employees as people. By understanding each person as an individual, you can tailor training to them and provide opportunities for growth that actually appeal.

Work With People, Not Statistics

Once again, all this fundamentally comes down to leaving the clipboard in the office and actually engaging with the people who work in your business.

In reality, most people know that health and safety are there for their benefit. Still, it’s up to safety managers to portray safety in a way that emphasises and personalises these benefits to them.

I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses to create bespoke and effective safety cultures, and I can do the same for you. To find out more, drop me a message via the online form.

Health and Safety Culture

Making Your Safety Culture Subconscious

There are a wide variety of opinions when it comes to health and safety.

Some people think it’s a right royal pain, designed to make work harder and less efficient. Others – myself included – understand that health and safety is instead meant to protect workers, and instead encourage them to think about their safety at work and beyond.

Legal Obligation

No matter the opinion held, health and safety is unavoidable fact of professional life. Employers and employees are legally bound by a range of safety legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act, to ensure work is carried out safely and legally.

But let’s be honest, nobody likes being told what to do. ‘You have to do this because the government says so’ is hardly an effective rallying cry to get people on board.

The best way to sell the idea of health and safety, like everything, is on the benefits. This goes beyond employees’ physical safety, ranging from supporting mental well-being and more to increasing efficiency, reducing absenteeism, and even improving profits.

As much as we love toolbox talks, presentations, and bulletin board notices in health and safety, it can be challenging to get employees – and managers – to take health and safety on board, no matter how positively you spin it. Don’t get me wrong, these are crucial parts of the process but will only take you so far.

Before any process can be truly effective, it needs to become subconscious. So, for example, health and safety shouldn’t be something employees have to think hard about, but rather something they do, like a surgeon, washing their hands, or brushing their teeth in the morning.

So what can you do to make health and safety subconscious at work?

Understand Your Employees

Whenever I talk to clients about health and safety, I always bring up the Human Factor.

Here’s the thing. Right from when we’re born to the day we die, humans are fundamentally unpredictable. We might have our routines and favoured way of doing things, but there’s always a fine line between doing things a certain way and doing them entirely differently, depending on a range of factors.

It can be nearly impossible to predict which way we’ll go until it happens from the outside.

At work, this is even more obvious. No matter how effective or comprehensive your safety procedures are, you can’t guarantee employees will follow them. You can do safety briefings until you’re red in the face, but in the moment, it’s entirely likely your employees will choose to do things their way – whether due to arrogance or to save time – and everything falls apart.

A shocking report from Safety and Health Magazine says incident reports show that as many as 80% to 90% of serious injuries and accidents could be down to human behaviour.

So what can you do about it? I go into more detail in my blog about the Human Factor. Still, fundamentally, the only way to minimise this behaviour effectively is by understanding your employees as human beings rather than statistics and properly identifying the potential triggers of unwanted behaviour.

Once you have a more in-depth understanding of the people working for you and these triggers, you can more effectively communicate the safety message in a way they will respond to.

Start At The Top

For the most part, humans love to follow the leader. We’re suckers for trends and the latest fads because we like to feel like we’re part of the pack.

This is known as the ‘bandwagon effect’, and although ‘jumping on the bandwagon is sometimes used negatively, in the case of positive things such as health and safety, it can be a powerful tool.

The most effective way to start a bandwagon effect? Get those at the top invested in safety leadership coaching.

When employees see managers getting involved in health and safety and making a real effort to make it part of their day to day, they will want to do the same. If there is sufficient communication between upper management and employees, this positive reinforcement should trickle down and quickly become part of the culture.

For more information on just how effective safety leadership coaching can be, read my blog on the subject here

Make It Personal

Get rid of the faceless cartoons and stock photos in your safety training. Of course, this type of communication has its place, but the most effective way to get workers invested in safety is with a human focus, and better yet, a personal one.

Use real employees in your communications: people others know and recognise as friends or colleagues.

Emphasise just how important it is that people follow the rules to ensure their safety and the safety of others. The impact of accidents at work goes well beyond just those who work at the office, so a reminder that the people you work with every day have a life and family outside of work can go a long way.

Make Training Relevant

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no one enjoys hundred-page PowerPoint presentations. Yes, it probably contains crucial information, but is it all relevant?

Whilst it can be hard to get face-time with employees, piling them into a room for three hours to stare at a presentation, of which 10-15% might only be relevant to them, is often less effective than doing nothing.

Instead – as above – get to know your employees as people and ensure you only deliver relevant safety information to them on a more regular basis. As a result, you’ll find they’ll be more engaged and less likely to nap.

Avoid Punishment AND Rewards

Whilst punishing and chastising employees for safety breaches is somewhat old hat these days (it’s more likely to lead to push back than any real change in behaviour), rewards for things like ‘X days without incident’ or ‘Y near-misses reported’ remain popular.

I advise against rewards for the simple fact that they can have unintended consequences, such as over-reporting.

Instead, recognition can be a far more valuable tool. Recognising the highlighted risk and the employee can be more effective in the long run and contribute to a more natural, habitual safety culture.

Making Safety a Habit

Fundamentally, making your safety culture subconscious means working directly with your employees and colleagues and portraying health and safety as a benefit rather than a hindrance. Don’t talk at them. Instead, talk with them, and lead by example.

I’ve worked with many businesses over the years to implement and maintain a healthy safety culture. If I can help you, send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below.


Stop Accidents and near misses

Motivating workers to report near-misses

Recently, I ran a poll on my LinkedIn page, asking how easy managers felt it was to get workers to report near-misses. Out of 296 votes, 42% said they found it not so easy, with 34% saying they found it challenging. Just 24% of people reported that it was easy to get people to report close encounters at work.

Of course, a LinkedIn poll can’t be considered an in-depth survey, but I was surprised at the high number of people who said they were struggling to get their employees to report near-misses.

David Cant - Health and Safety Professional

Let’s delve a little deeper into the subject and look at ways to make the reporting of near-misses clearer and easier.

What is a near-miss?

To get your workers to report near-misses, you first need to identify what exactly a near-miss is. From the comments on my poll, I’ve come to realise that there are a few schools of thought on the subject.

I feel we need to start by differentiating between ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’. In my experience, the difference between these is that an accident = an event that causes injury or death, and an incident = a breakdown in health and safety that did not result in injury but highlighted a flaw in health and safety.

This outlook is backed by the Health and Safety Executive, who we can safely assume are the arbiters of definitions within health and safety.

The section of their website, which discusses accidents and investigations, discusses various terms – including accident, incident, and near-miss – which can help clarify these various ‘adverse events.

According to the HSE, ‘accident’ can be defined as an ‘event which results in injury or ill-health.

Meanwhile, ‘Incident’ is broken down into two definitions, ‘near-miss and ‘undesired circumstance’.

  • near-misses are defined as ‘an event not causing harm, but which has the potential to cause injury or ill health.’
  • Undesired circumstances, meanwhile, are defined as ‘ a set of conditions or circumstances that have the potential to cause injury or ill health.’

The final term is ‘dangerous occurrences, which are defined as ‘one of a number of specific, reportable adverse events, as defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)’. The Regulations use ‘near-miss and ‘dangerous occurrence’ interchangeably.

Under RIDDOR, employers and those in control of work are legally bound to report near-misses as ‘dangerous occurrences. Thankfully, the HSE has supplied a handy list of reportable events within the regulations under this definition. Some good examples include:

  • ‘Any explosion or fire caused by an electrical short circuit or overload (including those resulting from accidental damage to the electrical plant) which either:
    • (a)results in the stoppage of the plant involved for more than 24 hours; or
    • (b)causes a significant risk of death.’
  • And ‘the collapse, overturning or failure of any load-bearing part of any lifting equipment, other than an accessory for lifting.’

So, although some might think there is a lack of clarity in the term ‘near-miss, the HSE is pretty clear cut on what it sees as near-misses, as well as what needs to be reported. 

What are the reasons for not reporting a near-miss?

There is any number of reasons why an employee might feel uncomfortable reporting a near-miss.

They are afraid of blame

The worker might not have been following standard procedures, or perhaps previous events have led them to believe that they will face punishment for the incident, even if it wasn’t their fault.

They don’t believe it will happen again, or it wasn’t that bad

The worker might feel that it is unlikely to happen again and is not worth reporting. Many employees often feel a sense of invulnerability at work, unaware that simply being ‘good at your job’ or having plenty of experience doesn’t make you invincible.

They don’t believe anything will be done

If a company has a lax safety culture, employees might not think reporting near-misses is worth the effort. Unless you make a real effort to take employee concerns into account and act on them, this can become a real problem.

The only way to honestly know why employees are not engaging with the safety culture is by making an effort to get to know your workers as people rather than statistics. I’ve discussed the ‘human factor’ in previous blogs and what you can do to overcome the unpredictability of people at work.

Why is it so important that workers report near-misses?

Outside of RIDDOR requirements, employees must report near-misses as part of a greater health and safety effort.

Health and safety is more than just putting up notices on the board and filling out risk assessments. The only way to effectively push down accidents and safety failures in your business is by implementing a culture in which safety is a top priority for everyone, from directors to employees to sub-contractors.

Only by encouraging everyone to participate in this culture will you reap the rewards of a truly safe company. Employees must see their safety and the safety of others as a top priority.

Once you have staff openly reporting the near-misses and safety failures they see, you’ll be able to properly analyse the gaps in your safety strategy and improve it, avoiding potentially much more severe failures in the future. The more information you receive from those on the ground, the more data you have to work with.

Encouraging workers to report near-misses

So, what steps can you take to ensure your employees feel comfortable and correct in reporting near-misses?

Recognition over rewards

The first port of call for many health and safety managers looking to encourage a certain behaviour is incentives. This seems to be simple human psychology: offer a reward for a particular act.

However, these rewards often do not work the way you would expect them to and can lead to unintended consequences, such as over-reporting on frivolous things to get the reward.

Instead of taking the easy road with incentives, you should invest in recognition. When employees bring a near-miss to your attention, recognise both the risk and the employee. Take visible steps to close the gap in your safety systems, and do what you can to ensure that the employee feels like they are being taken seriously.

Highlight a particular near-miss in your safety briefings

Often, employees might fail to report a near-miss simply because they didn’t know they were supposed to report it. As I mentioned earlier, there can be some uncertainty around what counts as a near-miss and what doesn’t.

By taking a recent, or even theoretical, example – such as equipment failure or a close call with a forklift – you can clarify what employees need to watch out for and report.

Please keep it simple

Even employees engaged with your safety culture don’t want to spend hours filling out forms. They’ve got better things to do. A simple hotline or email address for near-miss reporting is all you need. The system must be short and straightforward if you have any hope of employees engaging with it.

Never punish reporting

Just as you should not over-reward, you also should not punish those who come forward to report safety failings. All punishing responsible employees will do is make them less likely to report near-misses in the future.

If the safety failure was the employee’s fault, you should make sure you do what you can to identify what went wrong and educate them to prevent it from happening again. Safety coaching is a fantastic alternative to disciplinary action.

A safer workplace

Once again, this comes down to a matter of encouraging a better workplace safety culture. By ensuring that employees are engaged and feel that coming forward is worthwhile, you will find that more and more employees report near-misses because they genuinely care about making their workplace safer.

I’ve worked with hundreds of companies over the years to improve their safety culture and get employees engaged. If you think I might be able to help you, send me a text or WhatsApp message on 07814 203 977, or get in touch via my contact form.

Will AI put health and safety professionals out of a job?

There’s a common stereotype when it comes to health and safety managers: the person in the hi-vis, carrying the clipboard, maybe a bit old-fashioned. You might see this person making their rounds, scrawling notes, ready to compile a big, dense file later on.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still the case in plenty of businesses across the UK and beyond, and for the most part, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, the experience should be highly valued, and a trained eye with a risk assessment can be truly powerful, assuming the risk assessment isn’t just filed away into a drawer after.

Every so often, I take a look around and think, ‘Wow, we’re really living in the future. Everything from phones to fridges is starting to look like props from Blade Runner.

And health and safety, too, is entering the future – whether you want it to or not.

The future of health and safety

Being able to stop accidents before they happen is the fundamental goal of risk management. The majority of your time as a health and safety manager is spent identifying the dangers and what can be done to prevent them. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of human nature (the ‘Human Factor’) means even the best-laid plans can go awry.

As I’ve discussed before, overcoming the Human Factor involves putting in the effort to know those working on your site like people, rather than just statistics. By tuning yourself in and identifying potential triggers for risky behaviour, you’ve got a better chance of tackling it.

But you’ve got a million and one thing to do. As much as you’d like to, daily briefings and chats with the team aren’t feasible (and, let’s be honest, they’ll get sick of it pretty quickly, no matter how fun you try to make them.) You’re also limited in the amount of data you can glean from even the most comprehensive risk assessments.

So then, having a magic calculation that can predict the future would be amazing, right? And that’s exactly what AI predictive learning aims to do: input some data and out pops all your answers. According to what you told the machine, there’s a 98% chance of a vehicle collision in the warehouse. A 74% chance inter-office politics could lead to a damaging increase in stress.

You sit back, relax, and watch your near misses and absences plummet while all this is happening. Sounds good.

But could it actually be bad news for you?

Predicting health and safety

Predictive analytics aren’t a new phenomenon in health and safety. For decades, health and safety specialists have tried different algorithms to predict risk management with varying degrees of success.

Even risk assessments are a type of predictive science: you’re inputting potential risk factors and identifying their level and severity. By doing so, you’re predicting the dangers before they appear and hopefully putting controls in place to prevent them. It might not feel like Minority Report, but it’s the same idea.

There are a few standard predictive models in the field of predictive analytics, which all offer variations on ways to forecast safety:


This is considered to be one of the most simple and widely used types of forecasting. Essentially, the algorithm you use classifies historical data that you’ve collected into various categories, allowing you to ascertain, for example, the likelihood of equipment failure if it’s not recertified or whether a particular department is more likely to suffer a work-related injury.


This model takes historical data and assigns it a metric value, identifying the occurrence and regularity of past safety failures to predict the likelihood of future failures.


Contrary to the two previous types, outliers modelling focuses not on existing patterns but anomalous data. By identifying anomalies and outliers, areas that need health and safety attention can be identified.


Whilst all the above types of predictive modelling have their benefits; they also have their drawbacks. This can be overcome by using different aspects of each model and combining them – but the biggest drawback remains our little brains.

These models can only analyse small to medium data samples because, fundamentally, the human brain isn’t all that powerful. As a result, we struggle to see patterns and often fall into the trap of our own biases.

To allow larger sets of data to be analysed to provide real, in-depth predictions, you need a machine. You need artificial intelligence.

Machine learning in health and safety

Machine learning essentially describes the use of these algorithms without any human intervention. As a result, computers can analyse massive amounts of data far beyond human ability quickly and easily. This could be a serious boon for companies, which could massively improve health and safety predictions and minimise the impact of safety breaches with a little investment in artificial intelligence.

With the right data, an artificial safety assistant could identify the potential for machine failure before a single bolt comes loose based on past failures. Likewise, it could identify a clash between two personality types before office politics triggers a spiral of stress that impacts efficiency.

Most importantly, it could identify the smallest gaps in your safety control measures before it triggers a chain reaction leading to injury or worse.

It sounds like a dream for managers terrified of on-site injuries and their costs in human and financial terms. But as a health and safety manager, you might be wondering: where do I come into this, and is a robot about to take my job?

Not quite Blade Runner

Although artificial intelligence is undeniably powerful in predictive modelling, the good news is that we’re a long way from a dystopian future where health and safety professionals are a thing of the past.

Although humans remain one of the biggest drawbacks of truly effective predictive modelling, they also remain crucial. The effectiveness of these AI predictions relies on the quality of the data collected and inputted. Therefore, these models are most effective when health and safety managers work in tandem with them.

As a risk manager, you need to know your site and business. The machine – for now – relies on you to collect the right data from the right places. For all the talk of science fiction, even the most complex AIs are useless without a human on the other end telling it what to do and giving it the right information to work with.

AIs also need training, much like a human assistant. All businesses and industries are different, and what goes in one might not work for the other. A safety professional with a piece of real, personalised business knowledge is needed to ensure the machine models are accurate.

So, don’t worry about losing your job to the machines. Instead, take advantage of these impressive advances and think about how implementing machine learning into your risk management processes could benefit you. By gaining a deeper understanding of the science behind predictive modelling and streamlining your information-gathering, you can massively improve the safety of everyone under your care.

The potential for AI within health and safety is massive, but health and safety professionals remain a crucial part. So tell Harrison Ford he can stand down.

I’ve been working closely with businesses and health and safety managers for two decades to identify ways to improve their health and safety processes. Can I help you? Get in touch via the contact form below or message me on 07814 203 977.

Coaching for safety leadership

Six step approach to safety coaching

Have you considered safety coaching when employees don’t follow the rules? It’s quicker than issuing disciplinary action, which is a managers first thought. Regular safety coaching can also help maintain employees safe working behaviour when you observe it being done.

As I tweeted the other day safety coaching does not take long.

A six-step approach to safety coaching you can try yourself

Step 1. Coach in the moment

Step 2. You go up to the worker

Step 3. State the behaviour you observed

Step 4. Ask open-ended questions. What? How? Why?

Step 5. Have a short conversation and listen

Step 6. End on a positive note and with praise

How a conversation can play out

Picture Bob working on a lathe.

Safety Supervisor – “Hey Bob, I noticed you were wearing eye protection while turning that component. What’s it like wearing safety glasses?”

Bob – “Absolutely fine. It’s not a problem.”

Safety Supervisor – “And you still followed the safe working procedure. So tell me, why is wearing eye protection so important?’

Bob – “Because if I didn’t wear the glasses, I might risk suffering an eye injury from a flying object.”

Safety Supervisor – “That’s great, Bob. Keep it up. You set a good example for others. Have a great day.”

Safety coaching takes minutes.

Having conversations to remind employees of the Why? helps maintain safe working behaviour and good habits.

I can help. If you are curious about how I can help you with safety coaching techniques, send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below or if you prefer, book a 15-minute virtual call. to talk things through.

Managing Stress and mental health at work

How Can Safety Managers Minimise Stress In The Office?

It’s been a stressful year for most of us. Between the constantly changing coronavirus situation and a majority shift to working from home, many of us have likely found our stress levels rising.

Alternatively, the shift to homeworking may have helped relieve the stresses of office working, and now the idea of returning to the office may have employees anxious and worried.

Whatever the cause, managers and those with a responsibility for workers’ health need to be prepared for stress to make its way into the office following return to work. Although the focus might (rightly) be on ensuring the office is COVID-safe or that risk assessments consider all potential physical dangers, the stress in employees must be identified and managed before it becomes a problem.

COVID stress

We all get stressed once in a while. Whether it’s because of a change in life circumstances, too much work, or lack of support, stress is a natural bodily response. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the levels of stress rose dramatically due to uncertainty about job losses, confinement, and more.

Following the almost overnight shift to home working, 1 in 5 people said their work had been affected because they found working from home ‘difficult’, according to the ONS.

During the first lockdown, 37.4% of adults in the UK stated that the pandemic had affected their well-being. Though normality is resuming, it is still an uncertain time, and another shift in the way people are used to working could trigger more stress and anxiety yet.

Managers need to be eagle-eyed in spotting stress and anxiety in returning workers before it takes root.

How stress impacts work

In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on tackling stress and anxiety at work. However, nurturing employee mental health remains a low priority in many businesses across the country, despite the impact of poor mental health amongst employees on efficiency and quality of output.

According to Chris Parker, CEO of employment coaching firm TalkingTalent, work-related stress accounted for almost half of work absences and cost British businesses upwards of £26bn in 2019. This will have surely only risen over the past year.

High levels of stress aren’t good for anyone, and businesses need to consider the cost stress has, both in terms of the human toll and the bottom line.

However, more concerning for those with health and safety responsibilities is how high levels of stress can seriously hamper risk management and make it more difficult to achieve a culture of collaborative safety.

Morale and motivation: Even the best workers can get burned out. If they don’t feel like what they’re doing is impacting, then where’s the motivation to try? This can be particularly dangerous in the area of safety and risk management, with employees cutting corners and even ignoring carefully thought out procedures to get the job done faster.

Substance abuse. Stress can trigger mental ill-health and drive people to substance abuse in an attempt to get through the day. In serious cases, employees may start coming to work under the influence, putting themselves and others at real risk of injury or worse.

Absenteeism. When burnout gets bad enough, employees may start missing work. This can obviously impact their performance and output and make the jobs of risk managers more difficult, as you might not have a correct account of who’s in and who’s not. In addition, if an emergency strikes, it can be harder to do your job of keeping everyone out of harm’s way.

High staff turnover. If stress levels are too high or are not being mitigated properly, staff turnover rates can rocket. Not only does this contribute to poor work culture, but it also means trouble for health and safety managers. Each new worker means extra training, and it can be difficult to keep track of who’s up to date and who’s not. That’s not even considering the extra cost – both financial and in terms of precious time – to the health and safety budget.

Stress is bad for everyone, and it pays dividends to both employees and managers to nip it in the bud. So, what can you do as a health and safety manager to identify and minimise it before it becomes a problem?

Identifying and tackling stress at work

According to the HSE, employers have a duty to identify and assess stress as they would any other risk to health. The most obvious signs of stress in the workplace are:

  • arguments
  • higher staff turnover
  • more reports of stress
  • more sickness absence
  • decreased performance
  • more complaints and grievances

Signs specific to employees themselves are:

  • absenteeism/lateness
  • nervousness or ‘twitchy’ behaviour
  • mood swings
  • being withdrawn
  • loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • increased emotional reactions: being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

One of the most straightforward ways of identifying how much impact stress is having is with a risk assessment. First, identify potential stress triggers and assess how likely they are to cause trouble as you would with physical risks. I’ve talked previously about how risk assessments don’t need to be big exercises in paperwork – use your initiative and record the important stuff.

According to the HSE, there are six main triggers for stress at work. By identifying the trigger, you can begin working with the employee, colleagues, and managers to ensure the issues are resolved before they cause real problems. You must be active rather than reactive, so always be on the lookout for the signs above.

Overly demanding roles or overwhelming workload

This is one of the main triggers of ‘burnout’, where the employee can’t deal with the amount or type of work they have. This can be common in smaller businesses where workers do the work of several people or where management systems have broken down and work is being passed on without regard for capacity.

In these cases, you should work with both the employee and their manager to modify the employee’s role where possible, to either minimise or adjust their work to make it more manageable.

Encourage managers to bring in additional resources or implement job enrichment and task rotation. Workloads must be managed properly, and employees shouldn’t be regularly working with unrealistic deadlines. Similarly, employees must be empowered to reject work if they do not have the capacity.

Lack of control

It’s crucial that employees feel that they have control over their job and that their concerns are taken seriously. I’ve blogged previously about how important psychological safety at work is, and this can be encouraged by regularly requesting input from employees about how work could be better managed, and ensuring that these ideas are passed up the chain to decision-makers.

It would help if you worked with managers to encourage them to trust and empower employees to manage their own workload and avoid micromanagement. Steering employees in the right direction is far more powerful than ordering them to do something. Regular training can also be highly beneficial in giving employees a greater sense of control.

Lack of support

This can be a big one, especially in larger businesses with many employees or big teams. Nonetheless, employees mustn’t be left to fall through the cracks and get the support they need. Work closely with managers to foster a supportive atmosphere: a few small changes can go a long way.

Managers should always make time for praise and acknowledge employee efforts and be on hand to help when an employee highlights an issue. Conversely, any criticism must be constructive and followed up with solutions. Managers should also be conscious of outside pressures on the employee, such as family or financial trouble, to ensure criticism isn’t simply adding to the pile. Finally, where necessary, managers should always be flexible and allow for time off when needed.

Issues with other colleagues

Humans nearby will always have conflicts; it’s just a fact of life that we don’t get along well with everyone. However, you can minimise the impact these conflicts have on the workplace by partnering with managers to ensure issues are properly handled and that employees feel comfortable talking about the problem without judgement or bias.

Managers must listen objectively to both sides of the conflict and properly investigate complaints rather than ignoring problems and hoping they’ll go away. Prevention is always the best treatment.

As a third party, you can often assist by ensuring the discussions remain positive, unbiased and that everyone stays calm. Once a dialogue has been opened, you can also be on hand to ensure any changes promised are implemented.

Conflicting/unclear job demands

No one likes to be left in the dark. If employees are regularly tasked with projects without the right context, information, or training, it will eventually lead to stress. It is crucial that managers are clear in what the objectives of each role are and clearly communicate any changes to these roles.

Similarly, in fast-paced businesses, care should be taken to ensure employees are not being overloaded with tasks from other managers or are not being given projects that conflict with existing objectives. Again, regular meetings and open lines of communication are crucial here.

Unexpected/constant change

It’s only natural to fear change, especially when change can impact us negatively, and fear of change can become a serious stress trigger when it is constant.

Thankfully, it’s relatively simple to minimise the effect change has on your employees. Simply keeping them in the loop with regular communication can be powerful. No one likes to hear big news on the grapevine, and rumours can spread quickly. By ensuring team leaders clearly communicate potential changes and offer support where needed, the potential impact can be minimised.

How can I help?

Stress can have a major impact on proper risk management and health and safety, but real solutions are all too often ignored to favour quick results or more immediate concerns. As a health and safety manager, you are in a unique position to help tackle stress in the workplace before it causes serious problems.

With over two decades in the health and safety sector, I’ve worked with plenty of businesses to minimise stress and ensure the wellbeing of employees and, subsequently, the bottom line. So if you think I might help you, get in touch on 07814 203 977 or use my online contact form.

competent person

Competent or Not: Who’s Working on Your Site?

To most right-minded individuals, ‘incompetent’ is quite the insult. Incompetence implies uselessness at a given task, possibly even dangerousness, and most of us – quite rightly – would take serious offence.

In health and safety, however, competence is actually a technical term. Describing someone as competent in a health and safety sense clearly states they have the right training, skills, experience, and knowledge to carry out a given task that could be risky safely. Someone without the required amount of any of the above, or lack of physical ability to do the job, wouldn’t be considered ‘competent’ to do the job. No insult intended.

Competence is vital to health and safety and managing risk safely, especially on construction sites or in potentially dangerous industrial settings. Employers and those with a health and safety remit are responsible for ensuring anyone hired to carry out tasks – including contractors – is competent.

Competence to carry out a job should not be confused with assigning a competent person. This is a different but less important part of risk management and involves assigning someone in a general sense – not for a specific task – who has the skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety. It’s worth noting that this person doesn’t need to be an employee of the business. Veritas Consulting offers several cost-effective external Competent Person packages for almost any budget if that’s what you’re after.

In this blog, I’ll be discussing competency and what you as an employer or health and safety manager can do to ensure those working for you are competent, to keep your workers safe and your company out of legal hot water should things go awry.

Ensuring competency

Health and safety legislation states that employers and those with health and safety responsibilities must ensure that workers are competent before allowing them to commence work.

There are a few ways to guarantee a competency, but these will differ depending on whether the worker in question is an employee or a contractor. 

Ensuring employees are competent

According to the Health and Safety Executive: ‘someone’s level of competence only needs to be proportionate to their job and place of work’. Essentially, the person doing the job at hand needs to illustrate they are equipped with everything they need to do that job safely. Someone who has spent their life working in an office will (probably) be competent at their own job but won’t have the first idea where to start when asked to tile a roof. The reverse is also true.

Hopefully, when employing the person, you will have already been able to determine that they possess the right level of physical ability and the best attitude to perform at a safe level so that you can build on that foundation.

Of course, while it’s always a point in their favour, you can’t expect candidates – especially newer, younger ones – to have on the job experience or the exact qualifications or certificates. Hiring candidates who have already completed courses relevant to the job does mean that they can hit the ground running, as it were, but on-the-job training should be a priority for everyone. By training employees yourself or using a trusted safety trainer, you know for sure that they’ve been taught what they need to know and are getting the right qualifications.

Another vital part of competency, experience, comes with time and practice. None of us was born with a hammer in our hands, of course. However, with the right foundation and temperament, employees can learn the ropes on smaller, safer jobs or by shadowing more experienced employees before taking the reins themselves.

Regular risk assessments are key to ensuring workers without the right skills or experience aren’t left out of their depth. They will allow you to identify any training you need to offer or improvements you need to make.

Ensuring employee competence isn’t a matter of checking off a checklist. It’s an ongoing joint task between you and your employee, in which you provide the training and access to skills they need, and they implement what they’ve learned safely and sensibly.

Ensuring competency in contractors

With contractors, guaranteeing competency is a little bit different.

Although the contractor isn’t your employee, you become responsible for their safety by bringing them onto the site. This potentially makes you equally liable for accidents caused by their poor behaviour or lack of skills.

Luckily, it’s a little more straightforward to identify competency in contractors. Here, there is a checklist to follow. According to the HSE, you should ask any potential contractor the following questions to ensure they’re competent enough to carry out work on your site.

  • How will work be managed? Who will be responsible for each task, who will supervise, and what checks are carried out on equipment and materials?
  • Will subcontractors be used? How will the contractor check that they are competent? This will vary based on the risk and complexity of the work.
  • Can they show a record of recent health and safety performance? E.g. a number of accidents, ill health, HSE enforcement action etc.
  • Do they have a written health and safety policy? If the contractor has fewer than five employees, this isn’t legally required.
  • Do they have any independent assessment of their competence, or are they members of a trade association or professional body? Both of these are great ways to show competence.
  • Do they have examples of existing risk assessments? Again, the contractor will likely only have this if they have more than five employees.
  • Do they have a safety method statement? This isn’t a legal requirement but shows positive investment in health and safety.
  • Can they show relevant qualifications or proof of skills and experience?
  • Do they have relevant liability insurance?
  • Vitally, what health and safety information and training do they offer their employees, and can they provide records of this training?

Any contractor worth their salt will be happy to provide all the above to guarantee their ability to do the job. They should, in theory, also be happy to provide testimonials from other clients who have had positive experiences. The contractor wants to work for you and know that minimising any concerns is crucial.

By following the above checklist when working with contractors, you can minimise the risk of those who aren’t equipped properly to set foot on your site and make you liable for any incidents.

The experience paradox

Let’s say you’re required to carry out a specific type of work at height. You have a number of highly skilled and very competent workers, but none of them has experience carrying out this type of job. Instead, you seek out contractors who can do the work for you.

You have two options. A friend of a friend recommended company A. They haven’t provided any record of qualifications, training, method statements, and risk assessment consisting of a quick run around with a clipboard. They’ve got their CSCS cards, but not much else. Their reasoning? They’ve been in business for forty years. They’re experienced.

Option A, meanwhile, are happy to provide everything you need. They’re registered with CHAS and ConstructionLine. Their workers recently completed a Work at Height refresher course, PPE training, rescue training, and training in mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPS) and PASMA. Unfortunately, they’ve only been in business for a year.

Of course, seeing it laid out like that makes the right choice obvious.

Option B, despite their lack of experience compared to A, are more competent. But too often, those in a position of hiring subcontractors put a huge emphasis on experience alone rather than all factors. Of course, experience is important, but being able to prove that ability, with external, relevant, independent proof – is much more important.

Remember: just because someone has been doing the job for 40 years doesn’t mean they’ve been doing it right. Luck can be powerful, but it runs out.

The final word

Competency is crucial, but it can often be an afterthought. It’s important to consider all factors when determining competency and remember that just because someone is sensible and highly experienced in one particular area does not mean they are competent in another.

It’s up to you as an employer or health and safety manager to always check for and monitor competency, as it’s one of the most vital tools in ensuring the safety of those on-site and minimising your own liability.

I have two decades of experience in safety and risk management, including advising on competency and more. Can I help you? Please send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below to book a 15-minute virtual call. To talk things through.

Safety Coaching - David Cant

Set your sights higher with safety leadership coaching

Safety and risk management at work is easy.

When you spot someone flouting the rules, all you need to do is pull them aside, show them your laminated safety posters on the office corkboard, give them a telling off, then send them on their way with a newfound passion for safety.

Except that’s not really how it works at all.

Let’s be honest: no one has ever changed how they do things because someone told them off. Very rarely has someone skipped out of a meeting with the health and safety boss inspired to change their ways.

Just telling the worker what they did wrong isn’t going to do much because, in reality, they already knew what they were doing was wrong. They decided to do things their way for a reason, and it’s your job to figure out what that reason was.

The human factor, which I’ve discussed previously, is one of the most unpredictable parts of risk management on construction sites and beyond. It’s the health and safety manager’s responsibility to identify the triggers for rule-breaking and tackle them at the source.

Telling v motivating

No one wants to be told what to do. Very few people respond well to orders, especially when they’re being reprimanded.

Sometimes, pulling an employee up on something is an unfortunate necessity. If their actions put others at risk, or it isn’t the first time they’ve flouted the rules, then discipline is important.

However, if you find that all you’re ever doing is challenging people for breaking the rules, or it’s your go-to tool for enforcing safety policies, then you might be coming at things from the wrong angle. Too much modern health and safety is built around tackling safety behaviours after issues appear, rather than encouraging the right behaviours and skills from the start.

Ultimately, people won’t do something (or won’t stop doing something they want to do) without a good reason. So how do you find the right motivation?

The right motivation

To find this motivation, you need to go above and beyond the standard ‘person with a clipboard’ persona. It would be best if you moved away from the traditional compliance-based approach (‘stop doing this because the law says so’) to identifying motivational triggers and apply a coach-like approach instead.

There’s no one size-fix-all for creating a truly effective safety culture in the workplace, especially when it comes to motivation. Every person’s motivational ‘sweet spot’ will be different, and different people need different triggers.

To find and encourage the motivators on your site, you could look beyond what isn’t working and look at what is. Why? Can you repeat it?

Make sure you’re reviewing people as individuals rather than a single monolith. Then, you can provide real supportive feedback on what they’re doing well and what they could do better. I’ve blogged previously about how to properly motivate staff to want to be safer.

These strategies and others will allow you to coach your team more into putting thought into health and safety. However, to see real changes in your staff, you might want to consider setting your sights slightly higher.

Focus on leadership

One of the worst mistakes a health and safety manager can make is assuming that only the workers on the ground need to be thinking about safety.

From my experience in the safety industry, I know first-hand that some of the most powerful changes come from above. I’m not talking about managers coming to the site and throwing their weight around. I’m talking about real changes from the top down.

For a business to have a truly effective safety culture, everyone needs to play a part: this includes managers and directors. When a company’s leadership shows real support for safety in their messaging and behaviours, it cascades down to the rest of the business. How can directors expect their employees to care about health and safety if they don’t?

When management shows a real, sincere commitment to safety, it encourages others to do the same. Workers do what managers do.

As the health and safety professional in your business, you should be putting at least as much effort into targeting the safety behaviours of management and leadership as you are into workers’ behaviour.

By implementing a safety leadership coaching strategy, you might soon find that you’re fighting fewer fires, and employees are more receptive to your risk management policies.

Hopefully, you can work directly with a leadership team, letting them know about the effect their sincere input could have on the business’s safety culture. However, you may have a tougher job if your business doesn’t put much stock in psychological safety.

For the most part, however, leaders will usually want to do what they can to improve safety when they know the benefits. A stronger, more well-rounded safety culture doesn’t just mean safer workers, but fewer potential legal issues and a much lower impact on efficiency, saving time and money. A safer business is a healthier business.

There are multiple ways to get leadership involved in safety. Directors should be sitting in on important safety briefings, taking notes, and showing a real interest in improving safety and wellbeing across the business.

Leaders are often unaware of how their leadership skills, communications, behaviour and even their body language can affect employees’ outlook, especially when it comes to safety. No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t care. This is why safety leadership coaching can be so powerful.

Via proper leadership coaching, management and supervisors can identify their own safety weaknesses. They can also learn the real benefits of better company culture, encouraging them to take an active role. Being more curious and asking questions. Once a leadership team is seen to be taking a sincere interest in safety, those throughout the company have a reason to do the same.

Bring in the big guns

I know first-hand how difficult it can sometimes be to instigate change from within a business. This is even more obvious when it comes to working with leaders: directors and management have a thousand and one things to deal with, and it can be hard to get face time to tackle the issues. Sometimes, you can be too close to the problem, and your pleas fall on deaf ears.

This is where external safety leadership coaching can make a big difference. By bringing in a third party, you can schedule coaching sessions in advance, creating a sense of obligation, and making it more difficult to avoid the issue.

Third-party safety consultants with a coach-like approach such as myself can also bring a fresh perspective, helping you and those in positions of leadership to identify issues with a safety culture that you may not have even thought about.

If there’s a deadlock when it comes to safety leadership, an unbiased consultant can help break it and get everyone back to the important work of improving safety.

Getting leaders involved in safety can be one of the most powerful tools in a safety and risk manager’s arsenal. When directors and managers show real willing and involvement in safety at work, it inspires others to do the same, allowing them to internalise the teachings and creating a sustainable safety culture.

I have two decades of experience in safety and risk management which includes coaching managers and supervisors to become good leaders. If you are curious about how I can help you, send me a message on 07814 203 977, or use the contact form below or if you prefer book a 15-minute virtual call. to talk things through.

psychological safety in construction workplace

The Importance of Psychological Safety On Your Site

We’ve likely all had thoughts about ways to improve processes at work – in safety and beyond – no matter what role we’re in.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels comfortable enough to voice their opinions at work, either due to fear of judgment or the risks of punishment in poorly managed workplaces, where employees’ opinions are not high on the priority list.

In workplaces where potentially fatal risks are everywhere, such as in construction or manufacturing, ignoring or reprimanding workers for voicing their opinion can have a serious impact on that particular employee and their safety and wellbeing.

What is psychological safety?

Feeling comfortable enough to voice our concerns, whether at work or beyond, is called ‘psychological safety’. It is essentially the belief that our opinions and points of view will be respected if shared, and we won’t be mocked or punished for voicing them.

One of the leading voices in psychological safety, Timothy R. Clarke, said: ‘Psychological safety is about removing fear from human interaction and replacing it with respect and permission.’

In 2008, search giant Google carried out a comprehensive survey to find out what exactly makes an effective team. Carrying out 200 interviews with over 180 active Google teams, the researchers found that the highest performing teams had one thing in common: psychological safety. The team members felt comfortable sharing ideas and support in pursuing goals that might not have been a safe bet.

The benefits of psychological safety for businesses like Google are clear: they thrive on innovation and need employees to feel safe enough to voice risky ideas. What is the benefit of psychological safety in other, more traditional industries, such as construction?

Psychological safety in construction and industry

Construction and labour-intensive industries are a world away from Silicon Valley. Despite recent modernisation, these are generally traditional industries where ’this is the way we’ve always done it’ is a sacred phrase.

There has been a noticeable divide between the new blood entering the workforce with fresh, novel ideas and the conservative old guard, who can be resistant to change in recent years.

This resistance can take the form of managers and senior workers, who may be set in their ways, outright rejecting or even belittling potentially beneficial ideas favouring the tried and tested. Conversely, experienced workers who have utilised their wisdom to identify new ways of working might be told to stay in their lane. Businesses that do not emphasise supporting new ideas run the risk of limiting their growth and seriously impacting workers’ mental health, who will eventually either leave or become apathetic to their role.

More crucially, however, an atmosphere in which employees are ignored, mocked, or even disciplined for speaking up can, in many cases, even be dangerous.

If workers feel like their word means nothing, they might decide it’s not worth saying anything if they spot a potential danger or risky process. The input of workers on the ground every day is one of the most important tools in combating the human factor.

Is your team psychologically safe?

You can generally tell at a glance the general measure of psychological safety on your team. Do employees often come to you with things they’ve noticed or ways to improve processes? Have you noticed employees supporting each other in bringing their concerns forward?

There is a way to quantitively measure psychological safety if it’s a concern for you, using the Likert Scale. It would help if you asked your team the following questions, then ask them to anonymously score themselves on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being low and 5 being high.

  • On this team, I understand what is expected of me.
  • We value outcomes more than outputs or inputs, and nobody needs to look busy’.
  • If I make a mistake on this team, it is never held against me.
  • When something goes wrong, we work as a team to find a systemic cause.
  • All members of this team feel able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  • Members of this team never reject others for being different, and nobody is left out.
  • It is easy for me to ask other members of this team for help.
  • Nobody on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
  • Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilised.

A high score will mean you have a solid basis of psychological safety within your team. A low score indicates you have work to do but is the first step towards improvement.

How can you encourage psychological safety?

Ultimately, the best way to improve psychological safety on your team is to listen, encourage them to listen to each other, and make sure their input is implemented. You can follow the below steps to improve your team’s confidence and reap the rewards.

  • Show that you are listening and engaged. No one likes being ignored, or fobbed off with the standard ‘uh-huh’ or ‘yes mate, send me an email’. Take the time to listen, be present during meetings, and set time aside for employees to bring their ideas forward.
  • Show you’ve heard what they’re saying with a recap. If you’ve been listening, you should be able to reiterate their point. Discuss ways to implement their idea with them, rather than taking it straight to the higher-ups.
  • Avoid blaming and shooting the messenger. If something goes wrong, it’s too easy to blame the guy who brought it to your attention. If an injury occurs, investigate as a team, get the input of others, and ask what can be done to avoid similar future events.
  • Be self-aware and honest. Always be open about how you work and encourage others to do the same. For example, in training, identify who is a visual learner, who is a practical learner, and ensure they receive training most suitable for them.
  • Create a negativity free zone. Building sites and industrial zones are full of banter, and that’s usually fine. However, pay attention to the banter and keep it from getting out of hand. Similarly, if you notice constant negativity from one worker about their peers, nip it in the bud. Talk with them and let them know they need to be a team player and express their concerns professionally. Negativity can spread quickly and wreak havoc.
  • Always include your team in decision making, and be open with feedback. This is the most obvious way to encourage psychological safety, but perhaps the most important. Workers should feel their opinions are valid and affect the workplace: have open forums regarding major workplace changes or risk management. Let them express their ideas and work together, offering feedback and encouragement. When people are listened to, they speak up.

What are the benefits of a psychologically safe workplace?

Google found that psychological safety increased risk-taking, but of course, in cut-throat Silicon Valley, that’s a good thing. In construction and industry, the aim is to minimise risk to everyone. By encouraging psychological safety in your workers, you’ll have more information to work with and a solid foundation to manage risk.

Psychologically safe employees won’t fear bringing their concerns forward, allowing you to act on potential risks more quickly. Generally, you might find that those with daily experience on the job have plenty of ideas to improve and streamline processes, saving you time, money, and stress.

Overall, a psychologically healthy team is a safe team, and it’s something all employers should consider.

For more information, or if you require a safety and risk management consultant, let’s talk things through. Get in touch via the contact options below.

Robotics in construction

Are your Toolbox talks irrelevant?

The best way to make workers ignore safety briefings is to make them irrelevant.

Listen to this practical insight which goes beyond the clipboard to help you improve safety performance and toolbox talks.


shopping trolley wearing mask

Risk Management During COVID-19

Almost one year on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say the world has changed. One area seriously impacted by the pandemic is risk management and health and safety in the workplace.

Working practices have shifted dramatically, and health and safety managers and those charged with risk management have found themselves in a new and challenging environment.

How has risk management been affected by COVID-19, and what can those with safety responsibilities do to counter it?

Impact of COVID-19 on risk management

We are all painfully aware of the changes COVID-19 has had on the workplace in general. Most people not in front-line roles are now confined to their homes, with living rooms, conservatories, and spare bedrooms becoming offices.

But not everyone has been affected by the pandemic in the same way when it comes to working. Health workers are still required to face the public every day, as are other vital workers such as those in the food, shopping, and service industries. Important building and infrastructure works remain ongoing.

These workers are continually exposed to the risks posed by COVID-19 and the general dangers of their particular profession. This is even more concerning now that supervisors, health and safety professionals, and others in charge of keeping them safe are tasked with tackling the new challenges posed by COVID. It is a delicate balancing act to ensure COVID-specific measures are implemented, without neglecting standard, vital health and safety provisions.

Risk management during COVID-19

What steps can you take to identify and manage risks during COVID-19?

Remember people

People can often get so caught up in the other factors of health and safety/risk management; they can forget the most important part: PEOPLE.

Factoring in the constantly changing COVID-19 situation alongside standard risk management means you can lose sight of the people involved. When managing risk, you should always keep in mind that you are dealing with real people, not statistics.

Whether your employees are home-based or working on-site, remember that they are individuals, and their safety is paramount.

Conversely, as I discussed in my recent ‘Human Factor’ blog, human behaviour is the most unpredictable part of safety and risk management. COVID has made this even more apparent: people are stressed, balancing work and childcare, and fearful of the future. It may be more difficult to predict and mitigate risky behaviour. When carrying out your role, remember to be sympathetic and allow for these new factors.

Identify new risks, but don’t forget the classics

As mentioned above, the pandemic has brought with it a host of new challenges. Many businesses neglected to develop robust work from the home policy before the pandemic. These businesses had to scramble to align the new world of home working with health and safety policies as best they could.

Those managing risks in frontline fields faced an even greater challenge. COVID brought a host of new challenges including social distancing and sanitisation, to a greater degree than ever before. Things which were comfortably standard before – such as the number of workers on-site or the length of time between cleaning – became major considerations. The constantly shifting nature of the virus, and sometimes vague government guidelines, made tackling these things difficult and time-consuming.

Despite these new dangers, other risk considerations remain. Work at height on building projects still requires the correct training, equipment, and planning. Human behaviour still needs to be managed. The health of employees needs to be maintained with regularly enforced breaks and ergonomic management.

If you are overwhelmed in your risk management role trying to tackle everything, make sure you communicate. If necessary, ask to recruit support staff, or seek out the help of a professional consultant.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Sometimes it feels like we’re further apart than ever before. No amount of Zoom calls, quizzes, and Slack chats can make up for real face-to-face interaction. Even those not working from home feel the disconnect, with masks and social distancing making banter a thing of the past.

With the rigid structure of video calls and email chains, it’s easy for things to get lost in translation or forgotten about completely. When it comes to risk management, this can lead to serious consequences: and fast.

Make communication a priority. Ensure all safety provisions are properly communicated to everyone in the company. If you have risk management responsibilities, you should have a direct line to everyone, and regularly be communicating important updates regarding COVID and beyond to keep everyone in the loop.

The new world of risk management

There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’, which goes for risk management. Constantly identifying and mitigating risks has never been an easy job, and it’s only gotten harder thanks to the pandemic.

I have 20 years of experience in risk management, helping safety managers, supervisors and businesses keep people safe. If you need health and safety support during this strange time, don’t hesitate to reach out via the contact options below.

Man with Melon and Goggles

How can you motivate your workers to wear PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a vital part of many tasks in construction and beyond. The human body is not naturally equipped for many of the tasks we undertake at work. Using PPE means we can carry out these tasks without exposing ourselves to unnecessary risk.

Though employers should make an effort to minimise and mitigate risks as much as possible, sometimes the use of PPE is unavoidable.

In every developed country globally, including the UK, businesses are legally required to provide the correct PPE, and workers are expected to wear it and make use of it. Despite this, too many workers neglect to use it at all. The question is, why? And what can you do to tackle it?

What does the law say?

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Act 1994 states: ‘Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.’

It’s a quite clear cut that employers have a responsibility to provide that PPE where needed, alongside identifying and mitigating risks with other methods such as safety equipment and risk assessments. But are workers legally required to wear it?

The Health and Safety at Work Act states that workers are required to:

  • Take reasonable care of their own health and safety, as well as that of others.
  • Cooperate with employers on health and safety
  • Correctly use work items provided by their employer.
  • Not interfere with any equipment provided.

The law is clear then. But well-intentioned legislation very rarely survives contact with the day to day without solid health and safety management. All the world legislation can’t force someone to put a hard hat on if it’s not properly enforced.

Why don’t people wear PPE?

As we all know, humans can be unpredictable. Each person will respond differently to guidelines, and this includes PPE. Some people will do everything they can to avoid wearing them.

Justifications for not wearing PPE can include:

  • Comfort: hard hats aren’t exactly designed with comfort in mind
  • Necessity: do they really need to wear it for that job?
  • It’s restrictive: they’ll get the job done quicker this way…
  • They haven’t worn it up until now, and they’re fine, look!
  • They forgot. Whoops.

There are a thousand imaginative excuses for not wearing PPE, but very few wash.

Ultimately, the wearing (or not wearing) of PPE comes down to human behaviour and workplace culture. As a manager, you respond to workers neglecting to wear PPE will have a serious impact.

What can you do about it?

A common response to discovering a worker without PPE is to punish them. You provided the equipment, and they know they’re supposed to be wearing it. You may have a strike system in place, which will lead to eventual dismissal.

Of course, they could legitimately have forgotten to wear it. Assuming this is the first offence, you might be inclined to let it slide.

Conversely, some businesses might have a very relaxed attitude to PPE. An ‘oh well, don’t do it again’ attitude might seem appealing but can quickly lead to a cascade of similar offences. If there’s no consequences, or incentive to wear PPE, why bother?

There are many ways in which to respond, but these are all reactionary, rather than preventative. It might be worth asking yourself: ‘what can I do to encourage my workers to wear their PPE?’

Awareness is all well and good, but in reality, most people know they should be wearing PPE. They have likely been told to wear it in countless newsletters, on signage, and in toolbox talks. If you are still seeing people not wearing PPE, examine why these methods are not affecting the behaviour you want.

It’s a behaviour thing

I firmly believe behaviour management is one of the keys to safer working environments. Investigate further to identify why it made sense at that moment for that particular worker not to wear their PPE. Is it lack of training? Is the equipment unsuitable? Is this a wider issue which can be tackled by adjusting health and safety provisions? By identifying the root cause, you can implement a more effective solution.

This might be better training or rewards for meeting ongoing, dynamic targets. PPE usage will naturally increase as your employees strive to meet these targets and improve their behaviour. The carrot is often more effective than the stick.

Of course, some people can’t be helped and always do things their way no matter what you do, leaving the stick as the only option. But by making all efforts to check whether this is a wider culture issue, you can implement the right provisions to change worker behaviour, and prevent risky attitudes from taking root.

Sometimes, you can be too close to a problem. An outside point of view, such as that of a consultant, can be incredibly beneficial. I have helped hundreds of businesses identify the causes of improper behaviour at work, improve their safety culture, and protect their workers. Can I help you? Get in touch via the contact options below.

man and a ball and chain

The Human Factor – Managing Risky Behaviour at Work

In recent decades, health and safety has become a top priority for business globally, in construction and beyond.

While this is great news, health and safety managers risk getting lost in risk assessments and legislation, overlooking the biggest risk of all: the human factor.

What is the human factor?

Humans are inherently unpredictable. Though by nature, we generally like routine, it is impossible to predict how anyone might react to a situation, and nowhere is this more obvious than at work.

Human behaviour can impact health and safety in multiple ways, and no matter how many safety measures you put in place, you can’t entirely mitigate risk because of this unpredictability.

Whether it is a worker overlooking or ignoring the rules to get the job done faster, or a manager cutting corners to save a few quid, or simple ignorance, human behaviour is a tricky obstacle to well thought out and comprehensive safety measures.

Most health and safety provisions are often little more than common sense, but this means they rely on employees making use of their own common sense to be effective. When workers ignore common sense and take risks, all your safety measures go out the window.

Why do people take risks?

There are a few triggers of risky behaviour in the workplace.


Every workplace has its own unique type of banter. While there’s nothing wrong with good-natured ribbing, it can sometimes get out of hand without firm boundaries.

Immature behaviour can quickly lead to injuries, especially on modern construction sites where there are plenty of risks to human health, no matter how many provisions you put in place.

People often blame health and safety for ‘killing fun’ in the workplace, but that’s far from the truth. There’s a place for banter and jokes at work, but not to the extent that people are put at risk.

Management should support HSE managers in setting firm boundaries to keep everyone safe, allowing for a lighthearted culture that does not encourage risky behaviour.

Lack of Training or Communication

Often, risky behaviour on-site is just poor training. What seems like unsafe behaviour may come down to the fact that there are gaps in the employee’s training, and they’re filling those gaps as best they can.

When making safety provisions, you should always ensure that employee training is a top priority to minimise the possibility of risky behaviour. No worker should ever be doing a job for which they are not trained and equipped.

Lack of Communication

Risk assessments are all well and good, but no use to employees if the correct course of action is not communicated to them. Workers may seem to be ignoring the provisions put in place when they don’t even know they’re there in reality.

Lines of communication should be open at all times, with employees and contractors kept up to date on safety provisions.


As mentioned above, the push for cost and time savings is a big reason people put themselves at risk in the workplace. However, this type of behaviour is often triggered by pressures from above. If upper management encourages employees to put themselves at risk to benefit the company, then the issue runs far deeper than employee behaviour.

Conversely, weak leadership can often be as bad as actively bad leadership. For example, when risky behaviour is ignored, other workers may wonder why they’re bothering. When people are left to get away with ignoring the rules, there’s no incentive to improve.

Safety managers, supervisors, and forepersons need to have the power to step in when they witness poor behaviour. On the other hand, there also needs to be some reinforcement for those following the rules and striving for safety: it’s a balancing act where those in charge need to be prepared to react and respond accordingly.

Safety Approach

Awareness is all well and good, but it very rarely leads to changed behaviour on its own. Awareness campaigns need to be followed up with active behaviour management and achievable goals.

It’s important to look beyond just punishing the bad behaviour and actually set targets which entice everyone to improve. Simply telling your employees to be aware, or be careful, isn’t enough.

Ultimately, your approach to safety should be dynamic and ongoing, encouraging employees to change their behaviour and always strive for better.

The solution

It’s impossible to predict human behaviour at work fully, but this does not mean it’s impossible to improve it with behaviour management.

By working closely with your employees, setting firm boundaries, and implementing ongoing incentives to improve, you can manage this behaviour and minimise risks.

I firmly believe health and safety is just simple common sense. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses to help manage their human factor and maximise safety wherever possible. If you think I might help you, why not get in touch via the contact options below.

Contact David

Are you more of a phone person than a form person?

Send a message via text or WhatsApp 07814 203 977

David Cant David Cant portrait
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.