Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.
June 5, 2018

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources


Taking health, safety and wellbeing to the next level

How can we think differently to rise to existing and evolving challenges in health & safety, asks Dr Karen McDonnell, Occupational Health & Safety Policy Adviser at RoSPA.

karen mcdonnellI love this anonymous quotation: “Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you”. I think it sums up the approach OHS professionals and practitioners take across the world as they seek to deliver performance improvement.

The role varies depending on local culture, context and industry, yet it always has the same end goal. We ‘get’ that accidents and cases of occupational ill-health don’t have to happen, and that safe and healthy work underpins personal and organisational success.

We recognise that freedom from harm is an important goal for society and that we need to encourage our co-workers, families and communities to adopt a balanced approach to health, safety and risk.

Yet we still have ‘new people’ having the same ’old’ accidents and developing occupational diseases, the causes of which have been recognised for decades. I am challenged at around lunchtime every day when I invariable get an update on what’s gone wrong in our world, names that I don’t recognise but that are someone’s daughter, son, father, mother, sister, and brother, each a case of health and safety failure.

What do we need to do next to take health, safety and wellbeing to the next level?

This is our challenge. How do we do things differently? The words ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’ are widely used in our community, but are we really getting out there and listening?

As a health and safety community we are connected in a number of different ways: through our professional bodies, membership organisations or awards networks… knowing where you fit is good for you!

We are all influencers with the individual and collective capacity to have an effect on personal and organisational development, perhaps we need to get even better at making our voice heard?

Having time to stop and think can be a challenge, but taking five minutes to reflect and consider how the work you are already doing can be magnified is hugely valuable. Sharing success and helping people to go home healthy, how your organisation manages dangerous substances, or how you encourage people to take safety critical messages home with them every day.

‘What’s next’ in terms of health safety and wellbeing improvement will be underpinned by ‘us’, and thinking differently.

I am participating in the Safety Differently panel at Safety & Health Expo later this month. Let me know in the comments below how you are ‘thinking differently’ and I’ll add your comments to the mix.


Dr Karen McDonnell will be part of a panel discussion on ‘Safety Differently’ taking place in the Safety & Health Expo’s Keynote Theatre on Tuesday 19 June at 11.25.

RoSPA is hosting a range of seminars covering a variety of topics throughout the three-day event. For more information on these events see SHPOnline’s summary.


Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

Related Topics

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
2 years ago

Not rocket science as the human organism has a basic set of “given conditions” defined in either the Equality Act or Human Rights. We do not perform or function well when simple and in most cases predictable or reasonably foreseeable stressors lead to repetitive stress injuries (RSI’s).