Category: Health and Safety

February 7th, 2017 by Michael Millward

Thousands of people have had their say on plans to introduce life sentences for killer drivers.

The Ministry of Justice opened the consultation, on 5 December 2016, and attracted over 1,000 replies in just 3 days, before reaching more than 9,000 when it closed on 1 February 2017.

The overwhelming response is one of the highest for a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation, and shows just how passionate people are about road safety and those who break the rules of the road.

Those contributing included victims, bereaved families, road safety groups and charities.

“Killer drivers”, said Justice Minister Sam Gyimah “ruin lives. While we can never compensate for the loss of a loved one, we are clear that the punishment must fit the crime.”

The contributions to the consultation will now be carefully considered within the context of  the Government’s pledge to consider sentencing powers available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.

The consultation sought views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased.

The proposals included:

  1. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life
  2. increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
  3. creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of 3 years
  4. increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

The Government  set out its plans in the coming months. But employers who provide cars or other vehicles for their employees or expect employees to use their own cars for work would be wise to use the level of public interest in the consultation process as a catalyst for increasing awareness amongst their employees of the importance of safe driving habits.

Posted in Driving, Health and Safety

April 19th, 2016 by Michael Millward

I am looing forward to the Annual Meeting of the CIPD North Yorkshire branch at which I will end six years as volunteer branch chair. Over the last six years I have met an increasing number of HR professionals who are supporting employees who are dealing with mental health issues. It has been good to see the change in attitude towards an area of health that affects a quarter of the UK population, although much more needs to be done before we understand mental health issues as well as we understand physical health. It was for this reason that I challenged Kerry Smith the volunteer leader of the branch events team to create an event, my last as branch chair that would contribute to increasing this understanding.

As the first bookings for the Annual Meeting are arriving the World Health Organisation has published research that identifies the benefits of investing in mental health services for workers has on productivity and profitability.

This year’s Annual Meeting falls in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, and our guest speaker will be Jon Bartlett, who lives and works with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.

In the United Kingdom some 70 million working days are lost each year to mental health related absence. Globally the cost of depression and anxiety disorders costs US$1 trillion each year.

Part of the reason why poor mental health is such a problem is that it is an area of health that is so often misunderstood. People do not know how to recognise the early signs of mental health issues or have the confidence to seek help.

It is not so long ago that a similar issue existed with male specific cancers like prostrate and testicular cancer. Early diagnosis and subsequent successful treatment is increasing are as a result of campaigns like Movember and the check-em out campaign which featured pop star Robbie Williams. Learning lessons from these campaigns will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health and get people to discuss it. Just as with many physical illnesses early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down or stop a mental health problem and lead to faster recovery.

At the Annual Meeting we will be learning from personal and organisational experience how to spot the common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and how to help each other – and yourselves.

As HR professionals we have an important role to play in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the discrimination the sufferers encounter. Regardless of the issue that HR professionals have to deal with their role is more successful when they can demonstrate a clear business benefit from the activities involved in solving the issue. Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank (WB) have released research which demonstrates that every US$ 1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in better health and ability to work.

The WHO-led study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, provides a global estimate, for the first time, of both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness. The study, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said, “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too.”

Dr Chan called for new ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Depression and anxiety are increasing.

Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during periods of heighten activity, like meeting deadlines, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.

Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs

The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes for the fifteen years from 2016-2030.

The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and anti-depressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A five percent improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.

However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.

Figures from the Nuffield Trust indicate that in England the NHS spend around £12billion a year on mental health, including dementia. It is the biggest area of NHS spending, around double the amount spent on cancers and tumours.

Whilst appearing happy is no guarantee that someone does not have a mental health issue the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have identified what the happiest person in the UK might look like.

“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue—it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

The World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund want to see mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda with increases in funding for mental health.

Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health, said, “Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority—and a priority in every country. We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and businesses.”

Use this link to book your place at this event.

Posted in CIPD, Conferences, Health and Safety

March 25th, 2015 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward, volunteer Chair CIPD North Yorkshire branch and National Council Member today represented the CIPD at an event held at Headingley Stadium by Leeds City Council which aimed to raise awareness of the impact that domestic violence and abuse have on the community in the City.

Safer Leeds a division of Leeds City Council are developing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Quality Mark to provide small, medium and large businesses/employers with a framework to continuously improve the support available to employees affected by domestic violence and abuse.

Michael spoke at the event on the impact of domestic violence on employment and how as employers we can help to tackle an issue that impacts on health, wellbeing, absence and employee turnover in the workplace.

Drawing on his personal experience of working in HR roles in various parts of the world, and dealing with employees who were in abusive or violent relationships Michael explained what it is like to be the first person that a victim tells.

Stressing the importance of not assuming that victims are always women and perpetrators are not always men.

Michael described how he has worked with employees who were living in abusive and violent relationships with their married partners, cohabiting partners, same gender partners and with abusive teenage and adult children.

Leeds City Council are launching of a new multi-agency hub that will provide early intervention for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. The Council are continuing to deliver programmes of work to challenge the behaviour of those who are abusive in relationships in partnership with colleagues across the public sector.

The Council has launched a website Leeds Domestic Violence that provides easy access to information and services for victims, families, communities and agencies.

Posted in CIPD, Domestic Violence, Health and Safety

April 18th, 2011 by Michael Millward

Michael Millward joined Steve Bailey who was standing in for regular host Elly Fiorentini on the BBC Radio York Drive Show this evening to discuss the forthcoming International Workers Memorial Day on 28th April 2011.

Mr Millward explained that International Workers’ Memorial Day started in Canada, and that the date was chosen because it was the day that the American equivalent of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was introduced.

International Workers’ Memorial Day is now officially recognised by the Government of the United Kingdom and official and unofficial ceremonies to mark the day take place all over the country.

Mr Millward explained that it is the first responsibility of every employer to operate safely; if you can’t do that then you shouldn’t be in business.

In North Yorkshire during the 2009/2010 year three people were killed at work in North Yorkshire and 430 suffered a major injury slightly more than the previous year. That is 8 people a week, and these figures explained Mr Millward which are the most recent available do not include the people who die after having to give up work because of an work place accident or work related illness.

Much is made in the media of the compensation that is paid to people who have accidents at work; £200,000 for slipping on a grape is one case that has received recent publicity. But speak to the people who receive these compensation payments and all of them would gladly return every penny if they could be free from pain and return to work.

These payments are made by insurance companies using money paid by employers in insurance premiums. So if your employees have an accident that results in a major injury or death whilst at work, and work can be anywhere, a factory, farm, office, warehouse, or vehicle and even their home if they are working from home, your employers’ liability insurance premium is going to go up next year.

Employers advised Mr Millward need to take steps to ensure that they and their employees understand the risks that they face at work; then where possible remove those risks so that they do not become hazards. If it is not possible to remove the risk it and the potential for it to become a hazard should be minimised. When the risk or hazard is unavoidable employees need to be trained in how to behave around the hazard and risk so that they can remain safe.

No win no fee claims have made it possible for more people to take action against their employers when they have accidents and this again leads to increased insurance premiums.

But compensation claims are just the start of the expense. The costs of the disruption caused by an accident, the potential police investigation and prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive can prove to be many times more costly.

Yet just as no claims bonuses can reduce your car insurance premium there are moves in the insurance industry to rewards those employers who manage hazards and risks effectively and have fewer workplace accidents and consequent claims from their employees.

Mr Millward encouraged all employers regardless of size to use International Workers’ Memorial Day as a way of raising awareness of work place safety and initiate training and education programmes that will help their employees understand the risks they face at work.

As well as educating their employees it is also important that breeches of safety rules are treated seriously by employers and the strictest sanctions taken against perpetrators.

The value of first aiders was highlighted by last week’s First Aid Awareness Week, but surprisingly the majority people don’t know the correct way to treat something as simple as a nose bleed.

Having people at work who know how to act quickly can mean the difference between life and death. It costs surprisingly little to be trained.

Posted in Health and Safety

August 28th, 2007 by Michael Millward

In an article that first appeared in Safety and Health Practitioner magazine Michael Millward explains how training can be enhanced by using humour, even when the subject is as serious as health and safety.

It is possible that some of the people reading this article will believe that humour has no place in health and safety training. After all how can people learn about something so serious if they are all laughing? Surely all they will remember is the joke. Others may consider humorous comments about a subject with life threatening consequences to be in bad taste.

All of these people could be right

The health and safety manager who conducted the first safety induction I attended would certainly be one of them. Although it was at the start of my career I remember it as if it was yesterday. He was a traditional manager, obviously passionate about his profession, the importance of his role and the power he perceived it gave him.

As he described each of the Acts of Parliament, safety rules and guidelines he was responsible for policing, he threw a copy of each on to the desk as if it were a biblical tablet. My memories and therefore what I learnt are not about what was being taught but the way in which it was taught. Despite his passion the way in which he conducted his training failed to engage me with the subject; my safety.

There was nothing out of the ordinary at the time about this safety induction. The traditional emphasis in safety training was very much on instilling a fear of the consequences of breaking the rules, rather than engaging with employees and raising an awareness of the potential risks employees face in their work environment and the ways in which they could be avoided.

Despite the numerous stories he told of horrific accidents I left that safety induction convinced that the worst thing that could happen if I had an accident was a visit from the Health and Safety Manager. Loosing a body part seemed somewhat negligible in comparison.

Learning to accept responsibility

Nowadays we view safety and safety education differently. We expect employees to learn not just the what, but also the why and the how. In safety education especially we no longer look for employees to comply with safety rules because we have told them they must, or because they fear our reaction when we discover that they have flouted those rules. Instead we are looking for employees to accept more responsibility for their own safety and for compliance with safety rules to be the complicit with of normal working behaviours.

You are an extremely lucky person if all the places you have worked have been completely accident free. Yet for many people accidents remain something that happens to other people. As a result creating a safety culture that is based on behaviour rather than compliance is not going to be easy.

So how does humour fit in?

Well let’s get one thing straight; when I suggest that humour has a place in safety education I am not advocating that trainers dress up in comedy costumes, adopt funny mannerisms, or that they learn a full scale stand-up routine complete with catchphrases.

You are probably using humour in your safety training already without acknowledging it.

Starting a training session with a little light-hearted banter helps to break the ice and put your class at ease in what may be an alien environment. Because laughter is the quickest way to connect with someone it also helps to build rapport with them. If you can get your class to laugh with you, they will like you more, and that in turn will make them more receptive to your ideas.

The jokes used by comedians are just like case studies; they are stories. The only difference is that they are stories that are intended to make us laugh. Story telling is probably the oldest form of persuasion in the world. The art of creating an image in the mind can change even the most deeply held opinions. This is because stories enable you to capture someone’s imagination and paint a picture of a different more attractive future.

A key feature of story telling as a training tool is the correct use of metaphors and analogies. Metaphors utilise our imagination to create links between something we know about and something we are unfamiliar with. Analogies create the same link by referring to scenarios that we are familiar with or which we believe we understand well. Both approaches allow us to rethink our perceptions.

By adding humour to that story you can open up the potential to discuss uncomfortable, stressful or embarrassing issues. This coping technique is often used by emergency workers to help them deal with traumatic events. If we witnessed it as an outside we may be offended by it, but it is a technique we all use to differing degrees. It is how we often deal with discussions about our health or other personal issues. Using humour to discuss a sensitive issue enhances the ability of people to look on the brighter side of life. I am sure you will have used the expression, ‘if I didn’t laugh I’d cry’.

Employee involvement

Bill Callaghan, Chair of the HSC has spoken about the vital importance of genuine active employee involvement in good workplace health and safety. This requires safety professionals to allow employees to actively participate in discussions about safety and the risks they face, rather than being told what the risks are and the rules that they must follow.

Humour can act as a catalyst for releasing employee creativity during discussions about safety. Both humour and creativity involve looking at things differently, both involve taking a risk, challenging the status quo, playing with new ideas or concepts, and creating something different.

When someone is involved in the creation of a solution they take ownership of it and are more likely to apply it.

Getting to the truth

In normal circumstances when you ask someone what they think, the answer you get may be what they think you want them to think. Inject some humour into the discussion and you remove the corporate politics, and show your human side more openly. This will create a more open discussion. Likewise if you want to persuade someone to accept a new viewpoint getting them to laugh about it means that they are acknowledging the truth of your perspective. Although it won’t necessarily mean that they agree with you.

The change in pace generated by laughter helps to keep the attention of trainees who are actively participating in the course. Laughter is not just a psychological reaction it is also physiological, requiring wide range of external movements as well as what has been described as internal jogging. It also helps to draw in people who may be distracted by other work issues or even by something outside the window. If we are being honest we also have to accept that the noise of people laughing will disturb the slumbers of those who want to use the course to catch up on lost sleep.

It’s OK to laugh

Work and humour are not easy bed fellows for many people. Work is after all a four letter word, and if it was supposed to be fun we wouldn’t call it work. So your employees are initially quite likely to feel uncomfortable with the concept of humour in safety training. You will have to give them permission to enjoy the humour. This does not mean writing a new policy and sending out an email. Your trainees will respond to the queues you provide for them. Giving people permission to enjoy the humour in a discussion may be as simple as showing that you are enjoying it as well. Don’t laugh at your own humorous stories, but do smile as you tell them, and adopt an open animated body language.

It’s not all plain sailing, there are significant risks involved in using humour within your training. But these are all easily avoided. Much of what we call humour, relies on the exploitation of stereotypes, many of which have negative or offensive connotations. It is best to avoid mentioning race, religion, gender, physical disability or sexual orientation, and your mother-in-law regardless. And remember that not every victim of an accident is a white middle class male. The identities of accident victims, and the people who come to their aid should be varied to include characters from every group.

Phrases, acronyms and rhymes

For many people the sheer volume of new information they are presented with during a training course makes it difficult to retain and recall at the appropriate time. This makes achieving a long term behavioural change difficult.

Injecting humour in to the training adds a new dimension to the learning experience that allows people to attach memory joggers such as nicknames, or phrases and rhymes to key information that will aid their recall. Repeated recall and application of a new behaviour leads to the increasing automation of that behaviour and eventual permanent behavioural change.

Reinforcing a safety message often involves the use of sound-bite type phrases or acronyms. P.A.S.S. for example is an easy way to remember the correct method of operating a fire extinguisher. Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.

It is a simple little phrase, familiar to all safety professionals, but it is also one that in four simple letters explains a safe technique that people need to be able to apply in an emergency without having to refer to an operator’s manual. If only there was a similar acronym for how to operate my satellite navigation system!

Visual Humour

Training messages can also be reinforced using visual humour. Just think of the number of pictorial road signs we have to warn of impending dangers. Each one is making use of our ability to associate images with information from our memories and create a desired response from us.

‘Pictures will always attract more attention than text,’ says cartoonist Bill Tidy.

‘It doesn’t matter what the subject is, pictures hold the attention of an audience much more than words. The image softens the harshness of a message and coaxes the viewer to look more closely. Strangely drawings appear more human than photographs of other people.’

‘Humour in a drawing helps to push the message. If the drawing is too dry it takes on a text book flavour’

‘The perfect cartoon or humorous drawing is firstly well drawn, with attention to detail, but trying to analyse what makes a humorous image is like trying to define Jazz music. A waste of time, but you will know it when you see it.’

‘A good idea will support a poor drawing but not vice versa.’

Combining humorous images with a phrase or acronym like P.A.S.S. doubles the reinforcement potential of the message. Using familiar characters like The Simpsons™ in an image gives the picture added interest and draws people to the image. You might think that using a familiar character distracts from the safety message, but if this were the case there would be no celebrity product endorsement.

Part of the learning mix

Humour is just one of the devices safety trainers have available to them, although it remains one of the most undervalued, under-appreciated under-utilized, and misunderstood of those devices. Humour can be applied to any training method, regardless of whether that is a classroom style lecture, a role play exercise, case study discussions, experimentation, or even a test. The trick is not to aim for the Perrier Comedy prize, but to use it sparingly and appropriately. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It is also important to remember that the complete training experience regardless of what methods you use should be fun for both the trainer and those being trained.

Safety is a serious subject, but perhaps it is too serious to be communicated seriously

This article first appeared in Safety & Health Practitioner magazine and is reproduced by kind permission of the publisher

Posted in Health and Safety, Learning and Development, Published Articles, Training