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.

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!

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.

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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?

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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