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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Contact David

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