Putting the common sense back into safety

Inaccurate media portrayal of Health and Safety red-tape contributes to misconceptions of how to sensibly manage risk. But good behavioural safety training can help people adopt a common sense approach, and tackle any tasks safely.

I often hear people claim that “Health and Safety is just common sense really”. With the exception of the more technical aspects of safety management, I couldn’t agree more. Good risk assessment, the foundation of all good safety management, is all about being sensible. Sensible identification of significant risks followed by sensible selection of appropriate control measures. However, just because it is common sense doesn’t automatically make it common practice.

So, when I heard reports that 25 firefighters were prevented from entering a 3 foot deep lake to rescue a stricken seagull due to “Health and Safety rules” I began to despair. It seemed that common sense had gone out of the window. Now, I don’t have a working knowledge of the London Fire Brigade’s procedures on undertaking rescues in these circumstances. However, I do know one thing for certain; there is NOT ONE piece of Health & Safety legislation that would have prevented the firefighters wading in, so long as a few basic safety measures were in place.

So I was confident there was more to it than met the eye. After all, how could people trained and competent to fight fire and rescue people from major traffic incidents really see 3 feet of water and a seagull as a threat to life? I was right; the decision not to enter the water had nothing to do with Health and Safety and more to do with the fact the seagull wasn’t actually in much distress! For the full details, click here.

So the common sense needed was actually absent from the media response to the incident – yet again! But this inaccurate representation of Health and Safety isn’t helpful. Not only does it unfairly tarnish the reputation of organisations such as the London Fire Brigade, it compounds the myth that Health and Safety is about stopping people from doing things and making sure they’re exposed to no risk whatsoever. This skewed view of Health & Safety is so commonplace now, most people actually believe it as true and don’t question apparently draconian rules. So it is hardly surprising that so many take no notice of what Health & Safety is really about and react so strongly against it. Many people are becoming more risk averse as a result and think avoiding undertaking any task is the only way to stay safe. So many others think that “elf ‘n’ safety” is such a joke that they become gung-ho and dismiss the idea that they need to take any precautions at all. Whether averse to risk or dismissive of it, both attitudes prevent people from being aware of how easy it can be to remain unhurt.

In contrast, when Health & Safety is applied with common sense it is an incredibly positive thing. It encourages us to use our common sense to identify what risks are present and what basic things we can do to stay safe. It empowers people to stop and think about the task, rather than either avoid it or jump in without a second thought. It supports using simple, sensible measures. It does not provide any reasons to stop people from doing it, but ways which enable them to do it and do it safely.

This positive aspect of Health & Safety is yet another reason why we believe so passionately in behavioural safety, and in particular our Teamwork training. It puts the common sense back into safety by connecting people with their own ability to stay safe. It challenges the ideas that risk avoidance or risk taking behaviours are best. Instead it helps people see risk and be able to identify the simple behaviours they need to avoid getting hurt. So when crossing the road we stop, look and listen; if wading into a lake we wear waterproofs, use buoyancy aids and make sure someone is there to help us.

If the media paid attention to true examples of Health and Safety being focussed on keeping people injury free in a sensible way, they could help people appreciate that, yes, “Health & Safety is just common sense” and actually make it common practice too.

10 reasons why good safety = good business

Investment in Health & Safety is critical to business success. Without it, both the financial and human costs could prove to be terminal.

As our Prime Minister insists that Health & Safety is an albatross around the neck of business that stifles growth, companies may be more likely to slash spending on Health & Safety. At last week’s IOSH Conference, the IOSH President Subash Ludhra offered an alternative perspective; “To those who tell us we can’t afford health and safety, as professionals we need to let them know they simply can’t afford to be without it”.

It is fairly obvious that major incidents, dating from Flixborough right up to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are inevitably bad for business. Investing to stop these disasters happening in the first place is a wise move. But it isn’t just the big stuff that hits companies in the pocket; the HSE estimates that losses associated with slips, trips and falls cost employers £500 million every year. The cost to employers of people being away from work due to occupational illness and injury equates to £693 per employee per year.

If companies do cut safety budgets for a quick win on costs, it is likely that they’ll pay for it in the end. In general, poor attitudes towards Health & Safety cause high levels of even minor injuries which cost companies money. So, if investing (time as well as money) to reduce injuries means we can reduce an overhead of nearly £700 per person, surely having a strong Health & Safety Culture will kick-start growth not stifle it.

We actually KNOW that good safety means good business – and here are 10 reasons why:

1. Lower absenteeism – if people are fit and healthy they’re at work and making the contribution they’re paid for. Employers are getting some bang for their buck.
2. Lower wage bills – eliminate the doubled-up costs of sick pay for the absentees and overtime cover to fill the gaps and companies are saving a packet.
3. Reduced repairs & re-working – when things get done right first time, less injury, damage or out of spec product means less costs for repairs, re-working and waste disposal.
4. Happier workforce – it’s a deep rooted desire in us all to feel safe. If employees feel safe and secure at work, they’ll be happy.
5. Lower staff turnover – if they don’t think the grass is greener anywhere else, companies will be paying a lot less to replace workers who’ve left. And a lot less on recruitment and training too.
6. Reduced risk of fines – fines and all of the associated legal costs come directly off the bottom line. Limiting these costs protects companies’ profits.
7. Reduced insurance claims – injury and illness claims, property damage and business interruption all cost money. Investing money to reduce claims will save money in the long term.
8. Reduced insurance premiums – insurers are increasingly using measures such as the Corporate Health & Safety Performance Index (www.chaspi.info-exchange.com) to assess the risks of insuring businesses and set premiums accordingly. The better the Health & Safety performance, the lower the premium. And not an annoying price comparison advert in sight!
9. Improved productivity, quality & profitability – in their White Paper on “Well Being in the Workplace”, Messrs Harter, Schmidt and Keyes recognised that, “the presence of positive workplace perceptions and feelings are associated with higher business unit customer loyalty, higher profitability, higher productivity and lower rates of staff turnover”. Want some proof? Here is a strong business case close to our hearts.
10. More satisfied clients & stakeholders – if quality, efficiency, staff relations are all exemplary a business will have a reputation to reflect that. Without that reputation, business will probably suffer. After a major incident which had direct costs of £1 million, an explosives company estimated they went on to lose £6 million of revenue due to damages to their reputation and customer confidence.

Of course, there are many examples where the crippling costs of a serious incident literally put companies out of business. If you want to hear one particular story and the effects it had, check this out.

This list isn’t exhaustive. Nor is it particularly revelatory. But it is true. We’d love to hear about your business successes arising from Health & Safety investment. To contact us, click here.

Businesses need to make money. Cutting costs is one way for firms to increase their margins. However, Health & Safety shouldn’t be viewed as just a bolt-on that can be ignored to alleviate costs in the short term. Companies that have invested in developing a positive Health & Safety culture have experienced a return on their investment and reduced costs in a sustainable rather than knee-jerk manner. Good Health & Safety really does mean good business.

We all need to recognise the business benefits positive Health & Safety culture can bring. But for us, the moral reasons will always be the most important – a good culture means we strive to stop people getting hurt. If we don’t, the real costs are the loss of loved ones. And that is the strongest argument in favour of investing in your Health & Safety culture, as you can see here.

When an error is not an error…

If we are going to learn from the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that ran aground off the Italian coast, we have to be brutally honest.

While investigations continue we should keep an open mind about the possible causes and not automatically assume, like some media coverage, that the captain is totally at fault. However, it is inevitable that human factors contributed to this incident, as they do to every workplace accident and injury. Human factors encompass both errors and violations – two separate things which need to be treated separately. Camouflaging a violation as an error may be more palatable in the short term, but in the long term it does no one any favours.

The CEO of Costa Cruises was quoted as saying: “we cannot deny human error”. But he alleged that the captain of the Costa Concordia had sailed his ship away from its intended route to show it to people on a nearby island, ignoring the alarms that would have been sounded by the ship’s navigational computer.

It concerns me that the captain’s actions have been labelled as human error. If the allegations are true, what happened was actually a violation; a conscious, deliberate decision to deviate from the established safety procedures.

Violations are largely caused by our perception of the way things normally get done – the culture. To eliminate violations, what’s needed is a positive safety culture. If violations are never questioned, they become the norm, and people start to think there is no risk. Companies should develop a culture where everyone is encouraged to praise safe behavior and challenge unsafe behavior. That way violations become rare.

Errors, on the other hand, are honest mistakes, things we didn’t mean to do in the first place. They are caused by things like tiredness, distraction and frustration. It would be easy to trivialize them and regard them as inevitable. But that needn’t be the case; we just need to correctly identify what is error and what is violation.

We can’t suddenly decide to never be tired again to eliminate error. But often the number of injuries sustained due to error can be reduced if people are trained to spot the signs.

So, the direct cause of the Costa Concordia accident was not, apparently, a mistake. To reduce the likelihood of future incidents, we must acknowledge not just that an error is different from a violation, but so are the causes and methods we should use to eliminate them.

I hope the Costa Concordia investigation recognises what were errors and what were violations, and strives to identify the real causes of each. If the investigation into this, and any other, incident regards violations and error as the same thing, it is difficult to see how effective preventative measures will be selected.

Additionally, I hope it establishes whether deviations from approved routes at the whim of the captain were commonplace in the Costa culture or whether this was a genuine one-off. This will help to identify who is truly culpable. A no-blame policy is often referred to when developing workplace safety culture. But, occasionally, making people accountable for their actions is the right thing to do. What we should really be developing is a safety culture that is just – and we will explore that concept further next time.

Behavioural safety taster sessions

We understand that before you commit to a change in the way you approach safety, you may need more information or you may need help in convincing colleagues. That’s why we offer a free (subject to availability) two-hour taster session.

But before that, we like to talk things through with you so that we can work out what it is you really need. That means you get more than a standard presentation. You get an insight into behavioural safety that has been tailored to your organisation.

The workshop

  • An introduction to behavioural safety
  • An introduction to health & safety culture, and the critical link between behaviour and culture
  • Management’s role in influencing the culture
  • Elements of a behavioural safety and culture change programme


What the workshop delivers

  • An understanding of behavioural safety and safety culture
  • An insight into the changes you need to make to improve injury rates
  • A basis for discussing safety improvement programmes within your organisation
  • The language and ideas for convincing others within your organisation of the need for change


Target audience

Directors, managers and safety professionals.


Typically two hours (tailored to your needs)

Book today

This is a very popular workshop and the availability of our consultants means we can only offer a limited number. So get in touch today to book your taster workshop.

Tel: 01435 831500
Email: info@lattitudesafety.co.uk

Why your accident frequency rate isn’t just a number

An accident frequency rate of 3 seems likes it’s close to zero but actually it means everyone in your organisation (on average) is going to be injured three times in their working lives.

The recent release of occupational injury and ill health statistics for 2010/11 by the HSE has attracted much debate. Yes, there was evidence of a continuing downward trend in the number of people injured or made unwell at work: 24,726 compared to 26,268 in 2009/10.

As the chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt, rightly said, “Britain can be proud that it has one of the best health and safety records in Europe.” However, there was also an increase in the number of fatal injuries: 171 in total, up from 147 the previous year. This is clearly of concern, with Judith Hackitt adding in response, “we can never let up in our commitment to addressing the serious risks which continue to cause death and injuries in the workplace.”

The reasons for both the good and bad results have been much debated and the overall sentiment that we must always continue to improve cannot be argued with. However, the figures got me thinking about how Health & Safety statistics can so easily be ignored or misunderstood. The figures above are absolute totals and are very hard to misinterpret: cases of injury and ill health have decreased, fatalities have increased. Simple. But we very rarely deal with straightforward numbers. We always calculate an Accident Frequency Rate – and this is where the confusion often begins.

Let me just clarify one thing. This isn’t a criticism of accident frequency rates. Far from it. There is a growing tendency to focus on leading edge indicators such as closed out near miss reports, employee suggestions – and rightly so. It is important to concentrate on prevention rather than only dealing with incidents after they’ve happened. But it’s still really important to monitor the trailing edge measures, like AFR, to gauge how effective your leading edge initiatives actually are. Also, calculating a rate using a standard formula allows comparison across time, departments, sites, companies, industries, countries etc. and help us to quantify improvements and differences. Using a standard approach to accident frequency and continuing to measure it is a good thing. Being blind to what the numbers really mean though is not.

Sometimes the AFR can feel a little bit abstract. On its own, an AFR just looks like an arbitrary number. Out of context, it’s easy to ignore, simple to misunderstand and a doddle to regard as “pretty good actually”. This was proved to me recently when talking to a company director who was really enthused by a year-on-year reduction in his company’s AFR to 2.3. The corporate target is ZERO ACCIDENTS and he concluded that 2.3 was pretty close to ZERO, so they were doing OK.

The target is zero accidents and he concluded that 2.3 was close to zero

As an arbitrary figure, yes, 2.3 is close to zero. With this perception of what the AFR means it would be easy to imagine the directors perhaps easing off as far as Health and Safety is concerned and concentrating of the “more important” targets they had. But as far as I’m concerned 2.3 isn’t really close to zero at all, and so I discussed the AFR with him in the context of the numbers of people potentially affected and how. He began to see things very differently.

Behind any AFR are the real stories; the human cost. Any frequency rate is a reflection of the number of accidents that have actually occurred. And accidents more often than not result in someone actually getting injured. So instead of the AFR just being a lonely number, we began to consider it in terms of the number of people who were getting hurt. Amazing how people are more interested in the story behind a broken leg than they are in the number 2.3.

So, let’s look at the potential human cost by reviewing how we calculate an accident frequency rate and seeing what it really means. The most commonly used formula is:

AFR = No. of RIDDOR incidents x 100,000 / No. of hours worked

So the output of this basically provides a rate; a number of RIDDOR incidents per 100,000 hours worked, in this particular case 2.3. To show why this type of calculation is used, imagine a close competitor declared twice as many RIDDOR injuries. On paper this looks like a much worse record. However, this competitor has twice as many employees who work approximately twice the number of hours. Therefore, they both end up with approximately equal AFRs. They are declaring their performance on a level playing field – the number of RIDDOR incidents per 100,000 hours worked.

So, 100,000 – there’s another arbitrary, abstract number. But it isn’t. It isn’t selected just because it’s a big, round number. It’s used because it’s a round number which roughly equates to the number of hours we put in on average in a working lifetime. So our AFR of 2.3 means 2.3 RIDDOR reportable injuries per working lifetime. Each. That’s right, 2.3 each, per person, for everyone.

An AFR of 2.3 means 2.3 injuries in their working life. Each.

I told the director their AFR was unlikely to get any better if they were collectively satisfied with it. In truth, it’s more likely to start creeping back up but we agreed to assume it would remain fixed at 2.3. That means that if the injuries are shared out equally, every employee can expect to have 2.3 RIDDOR injuries during their working lifetime. But let’s also assume that not everyone is going to have their fair share of the RIDDOR incidents; the office staff, the managers, the directors themselves aren’t likely to have as many. So the remainder of the employees will have to “take a few for the team”. They’re likely to be facing around 3 each now.

The director really connected with this analogy. All of a sudden he realised, it’s the number of injuries that each person who works for him was likely to sustain during the course of their working lifetime. Injuries so serious that at the very least they’ll be unable to work for nearly a week. Or worse. Who’s going to have the dislocated shoulder? Who’ll be happy to take the broken ankle, the chemical burn, the penetrating eye injury, the amputation? Allow enough to happen, share enough around and he might be left guessing which of his staff will have to have the fatal accident.

So, I asked him this question, “If the board is satisfied with 2.3, why not tell everyone that’s what to expect in the future. Why not get it out the way and ask for volunteers to take the nasty injuries? If the AFR sticks at 2.3 it’ll happen anyway so why not plan for it?”

All of a sudden, that arbitrary number looked very different to him. He realised it really wasn’t anywhere near zero. We agreed that the target to strive for zero was there because it wasn’t just a number to boast about, it had a real meaning. It meant people weren’t going to get hurt. No-one.

So, if you’re ever facing some ambivalence about the need to improve your AFR, or the people who can help to improve it think it’s good enough or don’t really think about what the number actually means, perhaps present it to them in this context. Let it sink in, let them imagine the way all of those injuries will affect their workforce and their families. And before they move on to the “more important things” ask them, “What is more important than preventing a single person from suffering a couple of serious injuries?” Well, preventing your entire workforce from suffering a couple each – that’s what.

Statistics and quotes from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2011/hse-statistics2011.htm – accessed 17/11/11.

Lattitude Productions and Lattitude Safety

Two companies working together to inspire safe behaviour

Lattitude Productions and Lattitude Safety are two independent companies with a cross-over in ownership. But we work together to offer our customers something that is unique.

Lattitude Productions makes mould-breaking health and safety films including:

But behind each of these films is Lattitude Safety’s expertise. Our experts consult with the producers while the films are being made to ensure they represent the latest and best thinking in behavioural safety.

But it works both ways, because we use the films during our training courses. This adds a visual element to our workshops and we find the films offer real insight and aid understanding of the training messages.

Importantly, because we were involved in the development of the films, they are precisely geared into Lattitude Safety’s approach. The films build into the Lattitude Standard, so that you can select from a range of training and consultancy options that will perfectly fit your organisation. But you can also be sure of a consistency of approach which has been carefully thought through to enable you to build on your safety successes to achieve ever lower injury rates.

So, for example, in many of our courses on Teamwork: Independent Culture, we will often use the films The Climber’s Attitude and Lessons from a Blind School. These help people understand simple, practical ways they can look after themselves.

In our courses on Teamwork: Interdependent Culture, we will use All for One – the Meerkat Way to show how societies will naturally look out for one another. In Leadership in safety courses, Giants of Leadership – The Nature of Safety helps people understand how setting an example and communicating well are vital for good safety.


Take the next step… find out more about Lattitude Productions at lattitudeproductions.co.uk


A lot of people in health and safety seem to be talking about meerkats these days. Here’s why

Rob Coyle, the head guy at Lattitude Productions and producer of many of their safety films, was watching a nature documentary one evening. It was about Meerkats. As he watched, a lightbulb appeared about his head. These fuzzy little fellows had themselves an interdependent safety culture.

Rob brought the footage to us to check it out. Sure enough, meerkats operate a safety culture that puts many prestigious companies (and the supposedly smarter humans who run them) to shame. So Rob made a film, using footage from the original BBC nature documentary, that shows how much we can learn from meerkat behaviour.

We’ve been using All for One – The Meerkat Way in our team safety training courses for a while now and people really seem to respond well. In fact, some organisations have started using a meerkat as the symbol of their safety programme. One company takes its staff to a safari park to see meerkats behaving safely in the flesh. This meerkat thing is really catching on.


Take the next step… .find out more about our team safety training

The way we train

It is not enough to be an expert in your subject. If you want people to learn, you need skills in communication and motivation. At Lattitude Safety we have those skills by the shed load

Experience counts: our experts have all worked in a range of industries and understand the practicalities of running a business inside out.

Case studies make things clear: people learn better with real world examples. Because we’ve all worked in the real world, these are what we base our training on.

Doing is better than listening: most people learn best when they work things out for themselves. Our training is stuffed with practical exercises.

Seeing is believing: because of our link with Lattitude Productions, we are able to incorporate film presentations into our training. These bring the ideas behind our safety philosophy to life.

Passion is compelling: feedback from our training sessions often mentions the passion of the presenter. That is because we all want to make a difference. Health and Safety is not a dreary subject – it is life or death.

No other safety training organisation is able to offer all these advantages. The result is that our training is the most effective in the business.


Take the next step… find out more about Lattitude’s safety training

Ken Woodward

Ken Woodward was left blind in 1990 after he was involved in a chemical accident where he worked at Coca Cola. Since then he has become one of the best-known and most effective motivational speaks on safety. His mission is to make sure no-one else makes the mistakes he made.

Martin Woodall, Lattitude Safety’s principal consultant, was asked to put in place a behavioural safety programme at Coca Cola in the aftermath of Ken’s accident. During that time Martin and Ken worked closely together.

Although Ken works independently as a motivational speaker, there are close ties between him and Lattitude Safety and we often work together to convince people to change the culture within their businesses.

The benefits of the Lattitude approach

Lattitude’s approach helps you build on successes so that you can continually improve your safety record.

When you work with Lattitude, your starting point may have been that you wanted help understanding behavioural safety or putting a programme in place. It make have been that you were looking for new ways to reduce injury rates.

Lattitude’s experts have vast experience working across many different industries, so we understand where you’re coming from.

But we also understand the bigger picture.  Real safety improvements only come with fundamental change driven top-down.  So although you may come to us wanting a training course or some help in setting up a safety programme, all our products and services are designed to fit in a framework that is about changing the way people think and, ultimately, behave, so that safety becomes the priority.

Our approach is based on the Gleicher Change Model. This is widely recognised and highly effective way of understanding what drives changes within an organisation. It is as applicable to safety as any other area of your business.

The benefit for you is that you can start down the road to improving behavioural safety without necessarily having to worry about the next stage or the one after that. We have taken care of it for you. When you are ready to take the next step, you can come back to us knowing that our training courses and other services will build on what you have already done, continually taking you closer to a zero injuries goal.

Take the next step… find out more about our training workshops