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Pursiainen is professor of societal safety and environment at the Arctic University of Norway and teaches a course in crisis management. His post in the snows of TromsÃ¸ has given him time to reflect on the lack of literature on crisis management as a discipline. Previous books, he says, have concentrated on disaster planning and control in specific contexts, such as civil emergencies or threats to corporate reputation.
Crisis is a much abused term, he says, arguing that for a situation to justify the label, it must satisfy the criteria of involving a threat to an organisation's goals or values, limited time for decision making due to an approaching deadline or rising costs of inactivity and numerous unpredictable events or uncertainties that make it hard to predict the outcome of actions taken.
The majority of the content is grouped under the six chapter headings that reflect the stages of the crisis management cycle: risk assessment, prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and learning. The first three of these are self-evidently not about managing crises in progress but about forecasting them, heading them off where possible and shoring organisations against their effects where not.
It is in these pre-crisis stages that the skills of risk analysis and control OSH practitioners use every day are valuable.
In some areas of crisis planning and response the book is clear there is no single correct path. On leadership, for example, Pursiainen is clear that those who run a hierarchical management structure are not necessarily less likely to handle a crisis well than leaders who prefer a collegiate structure.
In other areas, he is more dogmatic. Of crisis communications, he says, "the rule of thumb is: tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth. Experience has shown that this maxim, namely that one should never try to lie, deny, hide or ignore the situation is the winning strategy."
The practical advice on issues such as dealing with the press, mixed with more theoretical content on cognitive biases or SWIFT techniques, both of which will be familiar to readers of this magazine, builds up to a comprehensive overview.
The book offers illustrations of good and bad crisis management but most are taken from large-scale disasters, such as the Chernobyl or Three Mile Island nuclear incidents. Some smaller examples of organisational crises, even hypothetical ones, would have been welcome.
That aside, this is a well written, extensively researched and fundamentally useful guide for any safety and health professional who wants to widen their understanding of broader crisis management.
We all learn differently. Some people can read something, understand it and put it into practice without any difficulty. Others respond immediately to verbal instructions. Some need to go out and put the lessons into practice before they fully understand it.
The infrastructure provider behind the Thames Tideway scheme in London is racking up a first in occupational health (OH) provision. Tideway, the company appointed by Thames Water to build, maintain and operate the 25 km tunnel below the River Thames to relieve the capital of its sewage and rainwater, has mandated an OH service for the entire seven-year project – an arrangement unknown until now in large-scale infrastructure projects.
In January, the Humber Bridge Board (HBB) brought its first private prosecution against an “urban explorer”, Ryan Taylor, who had scaled the 155.5 m tall Barton Tower on the structure’s south bank without permission. The climber was part of a group that had clambered over a barrier and used the bridge’s suspension wires as handrails to walk up the cables to the tower summit.The group took videos and selfies from the top, posting them on YouTube. They had no harnesses or any other safety equipment.
Over the past decade, a growing number of organisations have turned to online courses or e-learning to deliver OSH training.As the technology has advanced, the e-learning trend has evolved, providing workers with new ways to learn and continue to develop professionally. With the aid of handheld technologies, the mobile worker in the field or at a remote site can access important safety data at the click of a button. Businesses can use this mobile or m-learning to build on previous training, providing handy “refreshers” periodically to remind workers of essential safety messages.