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Health & Safety in our service

Author: Dave Walton

A couple of months ago I attended a course designed for managers, delivered by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, and entitled ‘Leading Safely’. The course gave us an update on recent legislation and encouraged us to look at our own health and safety culture. Rather than sit any assessment we were tasked with pledging what we would do to help make a difference. I chose to dedicate one of my blog postings to the subject and this is it.

I hope that by writing about health and safety in a less formal style I can reach parts of the organization that regular communications may not. Lets face it, popular culture has to some extent ‘demonized’ the brand of health and safety when you consider some of the stories that get reported in the media, many of which are inaccurate and misrepresentative.

Its important though. What can be more important that making sure that the people that come to work go home unharmed at the end of their shift having negotiated everything that our often unpredictable workplace throws at them?

In West Yorkshire FRS our performance is good. The total number of accidents is at an all time low with only 129 reported last year, and before you ask that is proportionately lower than our call profile would suggest it should be i.e this is a real difference, not just a consequence of a reduced call demand and lower operational activity.

The reporting of ‘near misses’ is also on an upward trend, this is seen as a positive indicator and something that is reflective of a good health and safety culture.

The message that I want to convey though is one of protecting against complacency. all too often we see that accidents happen when our guard is down or when the pressure is off. In the ‘high pressure’ operational environment we are careful, we are vigilant and we are looking out for each other. When we step back into the world of ‘routine’ that’s when we see accidents increasing. Be that in station activity, training or the old chestnut of vehicle maneuvering it is at times like these when accidents frequently happen.

We’ve also had a number of significant incidents recently where, fortunately, we’ve had no significant injuries or accidents recorded. Luck, or good judgement?, I guess  that we will never know, I’d like to think the latter but inevitably there is a degree of luck when we do the job that we do. That said the more good judgment and skill that we deploy at incidents the less opportunity there is for luck (or bad luck) to intervene.

I’m sure that you don’t need reminding but health and safety is not just a managers job, its something that everyone has a role to play in and a contribution to make. We’ve seen a few examples lately when the most obvious question to be asked is ‘how on earth did that even happen’ if everyone was thinking about what they were doing?

Accidents will happen, there is a certain inevitability to that. All of the evidence reminds us though that we can make a difference, we can prevent them, and we can make sure that people go home from work unharmed.

There! I’ve completed my pledge. My challenge to you is to sit with work colleagues and think about your workplace and your ways of working and find your own ways of reducing accidents even further. If you feel like it, post your responses and ideas as a comment against this blog, and share them with everyone else.


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