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Rising to the height safety challenge

25 June 2014

While the government's latest crack down on insurance fraudsters (www.hsmsearch.com/page_472378.aspsee) could see a drop in fraudulent slips and trips claims in the workplace, at the other end of the spectrum, Slips, Trips and Falls (STFs) remain one of the most significant challenges in occupational safety.

According to HSE statistics in 2012/13 STFs were responsible for more than half of all major (56%) and almost a third of over seven day (31%) injuries to employees, making up 37% of all reported injuries. And falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for almost a third of fatal injuries to workers (31%). (RIDDOR) 
These persistently high figures suggest more could be done to help with the management of this issue. The Health & Safety Executive has risen to this challenge by publishing new and simplified guidance on working at height which was released in January of this year while HSM is rising to the challenge by publishing its second Work at Height handbook. As well as discussing the impact and effectiveness of the HSE's new guidance, the handbook brings together best practice advice from leading authorities on working at height as well as signposting useful sources of further information, products and services. In his foreword for the handbook, the AIF's chairman Peter Bennet concludes that: "The real challenge  going forward is to change the thinking and consequent behaviour of not only those who work at height, but also those who are responsible for its planning and implementation."
Promoting safe behaviour at work is a critical part of the management of health and safety not just for working at height but across the board and the growing emphasis on its significance is evident throughout this issue of HSM. Advocating a human factors approach to managing health and safety in the workplace in this month's RoSPA column, Rob Burgon reminds readers: "Everyone can make errors, regardless of how well trained and motivated they are but in the workplace, the consequences of such human failure can be severe." Adding: "With that in mind, it is essential that employers consider certain aspects when trying to manage human failure to avoid accidents and ill health at work." (www.hsmsearch.com/page_466721.asp). 
In her article, Influencing employee behaviour (www.hsmsearch.com/page_469608.asp?hlight=Influencing+human+behaviour), Mary Clarke of Cognisco discusses the rise in popularity of situational judgement assessments as a means to assess how people perform and behave at work. "Such assessments provide insight into what an individual truly knows, how confident they are using their knowledge and highlight gaps in knowledge, as well as areas of high confidence – which is where potential risks lie. The gaps can then be addressed with targeted training interventions to improve performance and reduce risk," explains Clarke. 
For anyone not convinced about the benefits of taking a closer look at behavioural safety here's an unsettling final thought from Clarke: "In our 30 years’ experience of assessing workforce competence around the world, we have evidenced that around 30% of any workforce don’t fully understand key aspects of their role."