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August 11, 2021

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culture and behaviours

Thinking outside the box and tapping into all available resources

Subash Ludhra, Managing Director at Anntara Management Ltd and former IOSH President, continues to explore the role of parents and educators when it comes to helping to shape mindsets pre-work life, by looking at how Inspirational primary school students have become health & safety representatives.

Subash LudhraI have been in the risk management field for over 32 years and have had the privilege to have been able to work all over the world in most industry sectors. I do not claim to be a psychologist or have any professional qualification in this subject and the following is based on my experiences and observations only.

In previous articles, I have raised the idea of parents and educators helping to shape mindsets pre-work life and I am delighted to have come across the forward-thinking Aspire Academy Trust, which has 28 primary schools with over 6,000 pupils and 1000 staff. The small health & safety team were clearly thinking outside the box when they decided to enlist the help of the students themselves.

Pupils who usually display some challenging behavioural issues really enjoy the rules and the clarity of health & safety and we find that they are great ambassadors.”

This initiative came about from a lightbulb moment by Julie Brooks, the Trust’s Health, Safety & General Operations Manager. Julie had previously worked in further education and drew on her previous experiences of the power of the student voice. She then presented her ideas to the Trust’s CEO who gave it her support. However, it was not plain sailing, not all the Trust’s Heads of School were as enthusiastic, and Julie had to work hard to convince them this was a worthwhile project.

The Aspire Academy Trust now has around 100 student health & safety representatives between the ages of six and 11, who have volunteered to carry out this role.

All the representatives attend a training programme (organised by the health & safety team) which gives them a simple understanding of health & safety regulations, risk assessment, hazard identification and the use of a simple inspection checklist. Teachers and teaching assistants also get to attend the course and enjoy the learning experience. Once trained each representative gets a badge, pen, clipboard, and a certificate.

Aspire health and safety poster

Click on the image to enlarge it.

The inspection checklist covers topics such as:

  • General hazards
  • Corridors
  • Chemicals
  • Playground
  • Security
  • Toilets
  • Fire

The student health & safety reps also produce their own annual health & safety poster, which is displayed in the schools, and represents their interpretation of health & safety.

The impact of their students getting things done and their engagement with staff has had a huge impact on the culture of the whole school in regard to health & safety.”

Risk management is a fundamental life skill that many children have limited exposure to in their cosseted upbringings in modern developed countries. It should not be taught at work just in the context of health and safety. By introducing risk management into the students’ lives at such an early point in their development, Julie has not only helped to improve health & safety standards within the schools but given the students a far greater understanding of risk management, which will stand them in good stead as they grow into adulthood and the world of work. Who knows, maybe some of them will even consider a career in risk management.

The students have made a huge impact on ‘getting things done’.”

Aspire health and safety recruitment poster

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Julie’s lightbulb idea reminded me of a presentation I was giving some years ago. In front of me were the CEO and directors of an international company with locations across Europe. I asked the CEO how many staff he had employed to address health & safety. After several seconds of counting in his head, he told me that they employed seven health & safety professionals. I then asked him how many employees he had across all his European sites and he quicky stated that there were 7,000 employees.

I explained that there was the blockage, he actually had 7,000 potential safety champions working for him, but the company were only tapping into the skills of seven individuals.

Julie has been able to tap into the vast resource available and not just rely on herself and her small team.

Is now the time to lobby education ministers to take a more wholistic view to protecting people’s Health, safety and welfare and including more in the educational curriculum?

It will take years, but the next generation would be much safer, and is that not our ultimate goal?

They play on the equipment we don’t. They play in the field and hard surface areas and can identify hazards. They love pulling out wedges from fire doors and reporting missing ceiling tiles as fire breaches.”

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
2 years ago

Brilliant and beaten us to it as, of course, starting at the beginning of the common “chain of causation” better than too late Ethel trying to recover secondary school kids already effectively excluded from participation in learning simply because up to 30% arriving functionally illiterate and no vocational and workshop facilities to develop the skills lost we are going to be needing now the “Right to Repair” is gathering momentum – Doh