Don’t Eat The Play Doh
Usually, this is the risk of having said two children jumping up and down on my stomach, or the risk of there being a sit-down mutiny before bedtime. Of course, when you become a parent suddenly everything becomes a risk: the television remote control is now a dangerous weapon, food becomes an airborne projectile, and toys become trip and slip hazards (tip: always wear hard-soled shoes folks). My wife is not a HSE professional, but she would quite gladly do a risk assessment every morning if it meant she had a clean, hazard free living room…
Younger children are naturally naïve due to lack of life experience: they don’t know Play Doh tastes horrible until they take a massive bite out of it, or that it hurts to hit yourself in the head with the remote control I mentioned earlier. Of course, if you are a parent you’ll relate to all of the above, and if not perhaps you can relate it to your own professional development within HSE.
Every day when collecting my little girl from nursery I am handed a piece of paper which details what she has achieved that day; be it food eaten, skills learned, even the contents of nappies. However, last time around it said at the bottom of the page “please see accident book” in foreboding red pen. It turns out she had crashed into the playground swings, in that “just keep running at all costs” way that toddlers do, and had slightly cut her nose. No big deal, toddlers are generally a mess of bruises and bumps anyway, and no lasting harm done.
However, it got me thinking more about accidents and incidents and the impact they can have. For me this was the first instance where I could fully put myself into a client’s shoes, no matter how trivial the incident was on the scale of things compared to those clients whose staff deal with massive risks every day.
Here in the UK, The RIDDOR laws state that any accident that leads to hospitalisation, being absent from work for more than seven days, or death, needs to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive, who can then conduct an investigation. Smaller accidents are generally entered into an accident book, which most businesses have. Although not a legal requirement, reviewing its contents periodically can allow staff to identify recurring risks and areas of concern within their workplace and take action on it (or to at least tell the kids in the nursery to not run into things).
Of course, as HSE professionals we already know about accidents and incidents. However, the average business owner does not, especially the further up the management tree we go. Time and time again we see an attitude of “it will never happen to me” exists within a management that doesn’t embrace a safety culture within their business. I am sure my daughter thought “it will never happen to me” before she ran into those swings, too…
It’s staggering when there are over 317 million accidents in the work place each year that 20% of management still do not provide active and visible support for OHS in their business. For those that work in high risk industries, that becomes an even more startling figure. Without people, there would be no hazards, as someone once famously said, but in companies with workforces going into the tens of thousands, the risk of hazards becomes significantly even higher. If my daughter’s nursery can embrace a safety culture, then surely most businesses can too.
Of course, an accident might never happen, but then it all comes back to that naivety I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Be it PPE, EHS software or a fantastic safety culture, I would hope that businesses would aim to be the child that makes something nice with the Play Doh, and not be the one who eats it…