Bridget Leathley is a freelance health and safety consultant, providing risk management support in facilities, retail and office environments. She delivers face-to-face safety training including IOSH and bespoke courses, and contributes to e-learning courses through evaluations and design work. She has been writing for health and safety publications since 1996.
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In his 1879 publication Notes on Railroad Accidents, Charles Francis Adams describes how a rail company chose not to implement a block protection system because it feared that “those in charge of trains and tracks, who have been educated into a reliance upon it under ordinary circumstances, will, from force of habit if nothing else, go on relying upon it, and disaster will surely follow”.
There are many situations where safety and health professionals need to ask questions. From interviewing potential recruits, through safety conversations and audits to accident investigations, the right question, asked in the right way at the right time, might provide the crucial information. The wrong question, or one asked tactlessly, can cause someone to clam up or provide a misleading answer.
In considering radiation as a health hazard, two types are identified. The first includes the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum (such as X-rays and gamma rays) as well as particle radiation (such as the alpha and beta particles emitted by radioactive sources). Non-ionising radiation describes the middle and lower energy regions of the spectrum. In the mid-range, optical radiation includes ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared, and in the lower range electromagnetic fields (EMFs) include those arising from power cables, microwaves and radio sources.
When there is an emergency, our natural fight-or-flight response can result in poor decision making. The traditional solution to this problem has been emergency drills – to make our instinctive reaction to the fire alarm or other alert the “right” one. The worker hears the bell and evacuates the building or site. The firefighter sees a blaze and tackles it. However, such a drill-and-practice approach is of little use when the unexpected is encountered or when the situation is constantly changing. Here, a different plan is needed.
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