One of the things clients regularly ask is how do you get people more committed to safety. How do you turn sceptics in the business into safety champions? As you’d expect, my usual response is to cite examples of successful culture change programmes we’ve run which do just that. Well now I have another answer, one that’ll be familiar to anyone with children.
If you want to see a model of safety excellence, look no further than the culture of family Ormond since the birth of our son Freddie earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I already had a positive attitude towards health and safety before Freddie appeared (although we did seem to experience a mental block on skiing holidays: two dislocated shoulders and a broken coccyx), but the responsibility of such a tiny, wriggling bundle of potential catastrophe has led to a distinct shift in our general perception of risk.
It began the day we walked into Baby Barn just before Freddie was born. After resisting the urge to run screaming from the building, I took one look at the racks of baby safety equipment and realised I was severely out of my depth. My wife quickly assumed the role of safety manager and soon enough we were well-equipped with a bewildering variety of guards, clips, harnesses and general cushioning. All with associated instructions, procedures and manuals that make a mockery of anyone’s formal education. This was set to backdrop of posters depicting the general doom of life-threatening injuries (hanging by blind cords really caught my eye) to really reinforce a serious safety message.
As with all safety; planning is one thing but implementation’s really where the fun lies. For the uninitiated, implementation involving babies is always subject to intense pressure. First there’s ubiquitous screaming to destroy whatever logical thought you hold onto. Next there’s timing issues to maintain the ‘routine’. Finally, sprinkle a liberal helping of sleep deprivation and you’ve a recipe for serious injury.
So far this has manifested itself as relentless manual handling issues and increased risk as Freddie piles on the weight and discovers his limbs.
The real potential killer though has to be driving. Trying to concentrate while he winds himself up to a revving fury feels like I’m undergoing MI5 endurance training every time I get into the car. A forty minute journey from the in-laws took us two hours recently, as we tried desperately to avoid a snarl-up on the M25, keep the car moving and keep Freddie asleep.
Having a baby is a timely reminder that true safety excellence has to be a mixture of the right procedures, equipment and instructions. And it’s best delivered by people with the right attitude who truly recognise the importance of their own behaviour, responsibilities and understand the potential risks they face. All delivered in the face of relentless pressure to get the job done.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?