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Speedy Services: Human error is key to reducing injuries

Construction fatalities and injuries will only be reduced if human nature is factored into the equation, says Graham Neave

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Graham Neave: Human error is a key factor in accidents

According to figures from the HSE, rates of injury at work in the UK have reduced substantially over the past decade – but unfortunately, construction remains a high risk industry.  Although it makes up only 5% of the employees in Britain, it still accounts for 27% of fatal injuries and 9% of reported major injuries.

One of the biggest problem areas identified in trying to reduce these figures is not a lack of training, nor a lack of health and safety awareness and best practice, but simple, human errors.

By our very nature, we are open to such a huge range of preconceived behaviours and attitudes – the things that make us ‘us’ - that it is almost impossible to factor them in when producing a safety training model that ‘fits all’.

In other words, present the same advice, training and discipline to 100 members of staff, and each one will deal differently with the information and, by their very individuality, present a different risk to a company.

In 2011 leading education and training research organisation PyeTait published its report A commentary on competence in the construction Industry, commissioned by HSE. In it, the organisation confirmed that the behaviour and attitude of workers MUST be included as a ‘third’ dimension beyond skills and knowledge when talking about the concept of competence.

And communication of this ‘new competence’ was found to be key: the message might be clear and accurate, but if it’s not being communicated effectively, it’s a waste of time.

Speedy Services – through its ‘Safety from the ground up’ programme, has adopted PyeTait’s recommendations and is working hard on programmes to deliver the new competence.

It is hoped that updated communication materials and methods of teaching will prove to be the key to unlocking the human vagaries that result in variations to interpretations.

That, and changing behaviour and attitudes within the industry.

Visual aids, a comprehensive online video library and various support material are proving successful for Speedy in ensuring each employee receives the same information, albeit in different ways, and is therefore able to act upon that knowledge in a standardised way.

Perhaps next year it will be the statistics that start to fall, and not the employees.

  • Graham Neave is safety and health director at Speedy Services

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