Saving lives by fighting risk

superhero_16I’m not a doctor, nor am I a firefighter. I’m not even a lifeguard or a paramedic. But I do save lives by preventing accidents before they happen. So have you guessed what I do?

I am a Health and Safety Consultant and, for me, the whole point of health and safety is to prevent disaster, accident or delay – but most importantly to make sure that an employee leaves work in the same condition in which they arrived!

One of the problems with health and safety is that people think we in the industry only care about the people. We do, of course, but we should never forget that anything we recommend must be good for business too. An efficient and effective business minimises delays and gets things right first time, every time – and health and safety professionals are no different.

We shouldn’t be introducing rules and complications that don’t add value in some form, because introducing complications usually increases risk in either performance or reputation.

superhero_15I went to a building site recently and they were protecting a temporary deep excavation with a bit of plastic tape, right by the hole…! Not exactly a robust barrier. The easiest thing to do was to move that tape a couple of metres away from the hole so anyone falling nearby would still land on the ground. This was a quick, easy and cheap way to solve a very temporary problem, rather than forcing the contractor to put up an expensive barrier.

In another case, a company recently asked me for my views on people walking through their office with cups of hot tea because they were concerned that their staff might get scalded. I simply asked him what he’d do in a similar situation at home and that was the end of the conversation.

Advice has to be commercially efficient. It isn’t just “common sense” because if it were, I’d have been out of a job 25 years ago. Instead, try “common courtesy” and “good sense”. Treat people how you would expect to be treated and think a bit before you start – we call that risk assessment.

Patrick Guyomard
Health and Safety Business Manager

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