Anker & Marsh

Author Bio ▼

Dr Tim Marsh PhD, MSc, CFIOSH, CPsychol, SFIIRSM is MD of Anker and Marsh. Visiting Professor at Plymouth University he is considered a world authority on the subject of behavioural safety, safety leadership and organisational culture.As well as many of the world's most recognisable industrial names Tim has worked with diverse organisations such as the European Space Agency, the BBC, Sky TV, the RNLI and the National Theatre in his 25 year plus consultancy career.He has key noted and chaired dozens of conferences around the world including the closing key note at the Campbell Institutes inaugural International Thoughts Leaders event in 2014. He has written several best-selling books including Affective Safety Management, Talking Safety, Total Safety Culture, the Definitive Guide to Behavioural Safety and Organised Wellbeing. Previously he led Manchester Universities ground-breaking research team into behavioural safety methodologies in the 1990s.
June 11, 2024

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Front line safety psychology at its rawest

Tim Marsh says a high F.I. score is bad enough but a high F.U. score is even worse. How can the world of work do better?

Previous articles have covered the F.I. index and toolbox talk. This is the (now award-winning) scale that Jason Anker MBE and I invented when we discussed his accident in depth. He observed that, actually, he had followed his own advice; he had taken a step back; he did take five seconds to consider that the footing of a ladder was not safe. But then said, “F*** it”, to himself and tried to climb it anyway – we all know what happened after.

Credit: Unsplash/Jason Hafso.

This is a classic case study of why people having ‘bad days’ are more likely to be involved in incidents. Namely, they are:

  • More likely to be fatalistic/make bad decisions (like Jason);
  • More likely to be distracted and low in situational awareness;
  • Less likely to be involved in good-quality dialogue.

There’s a cross-reference here to the core principle of Safety Differently (SD) where frequency and quality of dialogue are utterly fundamental. This is important as good dialogue is key to good risk management and it’s empowering and engaging – the core of SD not necessarily either new or different but definitely good.

Having a bad day can be caused by a number of factors: fatigue, systemic mental health problems; issues at home such as financial, family or relationship worries; chronic illness, pain or the side effects of medications. It could be that a woman is menopausal or suffers PMT. It could be the ‘Peter Principle’ in action where an excellent but introverted engineer has been promoted to manager and not even given basic training in people skills.

The key point is that all of these interact and overlap with work – where we spend as much time as we do with family and/or friends. There are innumerable variations on the holistic overlaps and interlinks we might consider, however, this article is about something much more specific and personal. Central to the truth that ‘Good work is good for you’ is that culture is king and culture is about 1001 daily interactions – many of which are subtle, nuanced and are all about back brain instinctive ‘fast’ thinking.

These interactions tend to resonate most when they are about important values and principles (and nothing is more important than perceived fairness). Indeed, we judge unfairness much more harshly than we judge illegality. Laws are often clumsy and often biased towards people writing but are essentially efforts to make us act fairly – you might find this famous film clip of indignant monkeys amusing.

So I’d like to describe the value-based psychological principle central to this article and then a cross-reference to an accident investigation.

Increased indignation

In a famous experiment from the US, students were offered $100 but told to split that any way they wanted with a fellow student. The dilemma was that they could only offer a suggested split once, and if the fellow student declined, then neither got anything. As you can imagine a 50:50 offer was entirely problem-free. The 60:40 and 70:30 split suggestions tended to be accepted but with increasing degrees of indignation.

But when the split got to circa 80:20 things became interesting. Here, increased indignation morphed into a simple ‘FU’. To paraphrase: in response to “Really? Now we both get nothing.” The fellow student replied: ‘Well yes, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve not lost $20 I’ve happily invested $20 for the supreme pleasure and joy of being able to tell say, “You greedy p*** taking ass. Go f*** yourself.”

I’m not sure that’s a direct quote but it’s close enough!”


work life balance

Credit: Rocklights/Alamy Stock Photo

We often use the example of how ‘do it safely please but by Friday’, will deliver something by Friday as safely as is viable. We all know the words at the end of that sentence is the real message, similar to the ‘but’ that we all know is coming, and know exactly what’s coming next – “You’re a lovely bloke and I’ve enjoyed these last few weeks but…” Therefore, following this conversation, corners could be cut and workarounds created. This is usually nothing sinister. just a culture where productivity is 10 out of 10 and safety may be perceived by the manager in question to be an eight or nine. Instead, we need ‘safely and by Friday please – but if there’s a problem with that, we need a coke, a mars bar and a table to thrash it out’ and more astute risk management and empowerment and engagement flowing from that dialogue.

However, let’s now consider a situation where a ‘but’ was used instead of an ‘and’ and it’s gone wrong. The crap hit the fan and an inquest is being held. Here, instead of objectively discussing a clear miscommunication, management double down, circle the wagons and blame/scapegoat the individual in question – because they can.

Would the individual not be standing there knowing they tried to do their best for the organisation and with their FU score going through the roof? And their colleagues FU scores too? A major study suggests even people observing unfairness tend to be significantly less productive in the coming days and weeks.

Poor work culture

Latest Deloitte figures confirm that for every £1 spent on wellbeing and mental health a company returns £4.60. This is because a poor culture is full of disengaged employees who will suffer more turnover (of the best staff especially), more absenteeism, more presenteeism, less focus, less creativity, less discretionary effort, less engagement, more unwanted incidents of all descriptions and worse mental health. On the other hand, treating people fairly delivers exactly the opposite. Genuinely ‘Just’ cultures have lower FU scores.

So, if you’re reading this and not agreeing with me then all I can say is…please re-read and reconsider!

Book Prize: A copy of Talking Health and Safety to the first reader to identify not the song or the singer but the city in which her father died in bed when on the run with a bag full of cash!

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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Paul Lessiter
Paul Lessiter
11 days ago

Run Lola Run….

tim marsh
tim marsh
9 days ago
Reply to  Paul Lessiter

Hi Paul – thank you for playing but it is not …

Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
11 days ago

ROI doesn’t seam to be critical as employers and employees still expediently ignoring the average 20% lost productivity due to presenteeism, impaired performance & productivity.

Carrying-on regardless of Product Safety, ergonomics or accessibility suffering debilitating levels of repetitive stress, visual, physiological, cognitive fatigue and, resultant injuries.