From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Writers in OSH publications -- this one excepted -- often start articles with aggregated figures on the billions a type of accident or illness costs the UK, European or even world economy.
However immediately impressive they are, these telephone number totals demand a leap of imagination (or some quick-footed mental arithmetic) to work out their local implications. Better to save your audience the trouble.
If you want to persuade a board of directors to fund a mental health programme, try not to lean on the well-rehearsed £34.9bn cost to the economy. There are more salient ways to state the impact.
The total of 12.5 million working days lost to stress and mental illness in 2016-17 breaks down to 23.8 days per employee. It does not take much to work out what that absence costs your business for an average member of staff, plus the expense of covering their work. You are more likely to gain the attention of a finance director that way.
This principle that statistics are more impressive rendered to an appreciable scale doesn't just hold for financial cases. Joseph Stalin's observation that "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic" was made with the confidence and cynicism of a man who was responsible for millions of deaths and would never be held to account. But the point is valid; the detail of a single life cut short or impaired resonates more with most people than the abstraction of anonymous thousands. Writers of plays and screenplays don't anatomise the lives of crowds, they draw us into the stories of individuals.
In safety communications or training, stressing the general impact -- the 1,530 UK workers seriously injured by moving vehicles, for example -- at the expense of the particular is unlikely to stick in the mind of a forklift driver under pressure to get a load across a site quickly.
Some organisations have brought to their safety stand-downs speakers whose commitment and authenticity is underpinned by their own life-changing injuries. Others use actors to play out the calamitous effect of such incidents on family members. That's not an option for everyone, but pushing your audience to imagine the consequences of an accident is.
If you are tasked with persuading people to accept an argument or to change their behaviour, making it vivid and personal to them half wins you the battle.
There is a place for the big numbers, but whoever you need to convince, strengthen your hand by getting down to cases.
Now in his 90th year, Schein is still at the cutting edge of human psychology.This is the fifth book in his “humble” series – co-authored with his son, Peter – and extends the belief Schein has preached tirelessly: that we all need to be more human – whether at work, in consulting others, when asking questions, or when seeking to support. It’s an essential companion for OSH practitioners.
The authors share four keys for breaking the rules that reveal that the most effective managers focus on talent, outcomes, developing strengths, and finding the right fit.Conventional management suggests we should select people based on their experience, intelligence and determination. Buckingham and Coffman say break this rule: choose employees based on talent rather than experience.
The macho, show-no-weakness images boys are surrounded by as they grow up do little to encourage them to open up about their mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, women are more likely to have been treated for mental health problems, but “this reflects women’s greater willingness to acknowledge that they are troubled and then get support”.
The session was based on what are seen as the traditional career paths for safety professionals: adviser, to manager, to group level manager, to head of, and lastly director. But what I wanted our audience to consider was, why stop there?I started by getting us thinking about the average FTSE 100 company chief executive, a 46-year-old white male, who attended Oxford or Cambridge and has a degree in economics, law or business.
That is partly because, disasters aside, business leaders are not judged on their OSH performance. Their pay rises and upward moves are almost all determined by cost control and maximising profits.We often argue in these pages that OSH practitioners can do more to raise the profile of their discipline and persuade their employers to take them and their risk management skills more seriously. That’s true but, given the structural factors working against them, the profession’s cause could use some bolstering from outside.
The “bonkers conkers” story – arguably the most pervasive and, for the status of OSH practitioners, damaging safety myth in the UK – originated in a school playground. The legend that a head teacher insisted children wear safety goggles when playing the autumnal game had little grounding in reality. But it drew attention to a more important question about how we manage students’ earliest experiences of safety and health management.