Four industry leaders discuss how businesses can improve behavioural safety and combat distractions, peer pressure and complacency.
Emma Larkins CMIOSH
Consultant and tutor, The Bradley Group
The global distraction of the COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways had a positive impact on health and safety, thrusting it into the limelight. On the flip side, concentrating on COVID has probably detracted from other areas of health and safety management, particularly training. It is important for businesses to engage and involve their workforce and for their leaders to have a positive presence. Talking to employees, listening to them and acting upon those conversations can combat complacency and encourage peer pressure to become a more positive influence.
Amy Goldsbrough CMIOSH
Regional health and safety manager (North West), Unite Students
Many factors influence behaviours in the workplace, including technology. Our phones are a huge distraction. This can have a huge impact at work, whether someone is changing the song they’re listening to while crossing the road, texting a friend while stuck in traffic, or scrolling through social media while walking down the stairs. In some workplaces, phones are put in lockers before starting a shift, which means workers are fully present and paying attention. I like meetings that start with ground rules such as ‘laptops away, phones on silent and off the table’. I feel so much more engaged and attentive.
John McNamee CMIOSH
Co-founder and principal consultant at Ravensdale Health, Safety & Wellbeing
Behaviours exhibited by those at the top will be mirrored by subordinates. When words and actions are not congruent, the latter will always be taken as the true intention, and this is the message that will be conveyed throughout the company. To ensure a positive safety culture is developed and maintained, the most senior people must convey a consistent, sincere narrative. Storytelling is an effective way of communicating beliefs while helping to achieve desired behaviours. Leaders must inspire their people and build a sense of community rather than just impose another process or procedure that adds little to the performance of the business or the individuals involved.
Samantha Mepham CMIOSH
Partner, health and safety, Rider Levett Bucknall
Peer pressure can result in bad decisions, and complacency can lead to dangerous risk-taking because ‘it’s never happened before’. During the pandemic, some construction sites reported an increase in accidents; this may have been caused by reduced resource/supervision, but did we get distracted? Successful health and safety is not a work of fiction. Yes, there are horror stories of poor practices, but there are also inspiring tales of collaboration and empowerment. By understanding behavioural safety we can identify what factors influence a culture and address them.