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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
July 12, 2019

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Getting conditions right for people to thrive

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) has highlighted fatigue and sleep management of one of the big safety issues going forward.

Karen McDonnell

Karen McDonnell

Speaking at Safety & Health Expo 2019 in London, the head of ROSPA Scotland, Dr Karen McDonnell said its national committee brings people together from across the world to discuss health and safety in order that “we can tackle what is next coming down the line”. “We think what is coming down the line is fatigue and sleep management,” she told delegates.

Dr McDonnell was talking about the need to create the right workplace conditions to help people thrive, which she described as like “peeling an onion”.

“There are always more layers than you think,” she explained.

“There was a conversation on LinkedIn recently about what is an authentic human being.

“I had a chat with a colleague at work and she said to me everyone is authentic, because everybody shares a biological system. Whereas I said that authenticity is all about empathy, enabling and bringing out the best in others.

“It’s also about bringing together the occupational health and safety threads in an organisation and understand where the fine tuning is requirement.”

She added that there are a lot of factors to creating the right environment for people, including workloads, stress and time frames.

“I think there is a real challenge in terms of reflecting on the role each of us plays in the workplace environment,” she said.

“There is an opportunity for self-reflection – to look in the mirror – and ask if you are creating the right conditions for your staff can thrive? Or have you noticed that someone has isolated themselves from the group, or much more vocal that they have been before?

“Who is doing well and who is finding things hard? Or who is ill?”


Dr McDonnell also recounted a personal story of the time a colleague described her performance in the workplace as like a “whirlwind”.

“I had to completely changed the way I dealt with people in terms of providing shorter pieces of information over a longer period of time.

My role I always feel is to be an enabler, to bring people together and to make sure everyone is comfortable, but here I was being referred to as a whirlwind. Are you a whirlwind, or you causing a similar vibe in your workplace environment?”

“Last weekend, I read a piece about a folk singer – Dougie MacLean – who has travelled widely in Australia,” she told the event.

“He shared his story about having gained a knowledge and understanding of aboriginal culture, which is all about thinking in the present, and that is really important in the workplace.

“Look away from yourself and toward your community, whether your community is the office space or a single location. Accidents happen in the present and people are exposed to unhealthy working conditions in the present and it falls to us to make sure that the environments in which people work are safe, healthy and not putting people into harm.”

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