A day in the life of Dr Tim Marsh
18 October 2018
Each issue HSM puts the spotlight on a health and safety worker by speaking to a member of the British Safety Council about the challenges and rewards of working in this field. This time we talk to Dr Tim Marsh.
What is your job, and where do you work?
I am the managing director of consultancy firm Anker and Marsh.
What motivates you to get out of bed on a work day?
I love my work. Applying psychology to the world of safety and increasingly health is hugely satisfying.
What does a typical day entail for you?
There isn’t one. It may be running a day’s training if things are really busy and short of trainers or giving a key note a safety and health event. Like every-one else lots of travel, lots of phone calls and Skype calls and lots and lots of e-mails. Ideally, it’ll involve turning some interesting new research or writing into a slide or interactive exercise that illustrates an important principle. Yesterday I was trying to scare people with heart monitors on with spiders in jars (to illustrate the automatic fight or flight response).
What is your favourite, or most important, piece of work equipment?
I honestly don’t have one.
What item would you be lost without at work?
If I couldn’t talk I’d be struggling as I need my voice for meetings, presenting and talking on the phone. On any given day out of the office If I lost my laptop and my ‘just in case’ memory stick (because I stupidly put it the lap top case not a pocket) I’d be really… struggling.
What route did you take to working in the field of worker safety and health protection?
I had just finished doing some research work on suicide in the armed forces for Manchester University when was asked to step in and help out on a building site ‘whilst they found someone’. Day one had the workers building a new Blackburn Rovers stand and they took me out along a swaying beam in a gale to ‘show me something important’. When I go there it turned out to be the other workers in the ‘how far out will he go?’ sweepstake waving up at me … now ‘initiated’ they were then really helpful when we got back down and I was hooked.
What advice would you give a person thinking of working in the area of health and safety at work?
Read Sidney Dekker and then read Black Box Thinking (M Syed). Then find a job that’s predominantly pro-active and ‘win: win’ rather than compliance driven.
What is the best part of working in your field?
Saving lives, helping empower people and the varied and fascinating people that you meet on your travels.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to health and safety at work currently?
Ah. Trickier this one. Everyone is now embracing wellbeing and mental health which is wonderful (and, as above, takes me back full circle to where I started as a ‘junior doctor’ 25 years ago as it were). Many workplaces have been transformed but not everyone can do what some of the big players can do. I think many companies are finding that even when bought into the win win that empowering methodologies deliver. There are still hard-nosed business realities that clash against that. ‘You can’t even get on the bid list if you don’t promise to do X’ is great but if you then have to agree a price that makes it really hard to then do X at all well.
Then there’s physical health regarding exposure (see Rushton), which isn’t improving and which dwarfs even mental health and doesn’t seem to be making much headway. Indeed it may be getting worse in regards to new technologies but there are, basically, enormous practical challenges we’re barely begun to address that follow the framing challenge ‘define harm’.
Dr Tim Marsh is managing director of consultancy firm Anker and Marsh. For more information, visit www.ankerandmarsh.co.uk