May 19, 2022

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culture and behaviours

At the pointy end: Talking people, law, health & safety

SHP caught up with Tim Marsh and Laura Thomas, ahead of an event they are hosting in July, which will discuss the practical importance of a positive, proactive and holistic health & safety culture.

Villa ParkTaking place on July 4, 2022, in the Director’s Club at Villa Park, Birmingham, the home of Aston Villa Football Club, culture, safety and mental health psychologist Tim Marsh, leading health & safety barrister Laura Thomas and motivational speaker Jason Anker will be hosting a very special event, looking at the practical importance of a positive, proactive and holistic health & safety culture.

The event is pitched at everyone, from the CEO who wants to transform a company, to the safety reps and anybody who might be, or want to, be a safety champion. Laura Thomas said: “I don’t think it would less valuable if you’re junior within an organisation, because one thing that I firmly believe is that we are all health and safety leaders. It doesn’t matter what your role is, you are a health and safety leader, you are influencing how other people work.”

Tim Marsh added: “If you have a holistic approach to human error, you need to incorporate culture. You need to incorporate leadership. You need to incorporate design and ergonomics. You need to think about fatigue, and you need to think about mental health.”

Process procedure failure

Laura ThomasLaura Thomas, a barrister by profession, has a proven track record and deep expertise in regulatory law, health and safety, environment, transport, governance, risk and compliance. She started out in criminal chambers and whilst in chambers she worked in the Solicitors Office for the HSE, advising on prosecutions and whether they should be taken or not. She was then instructed by the HSE on some major health and safety prosecutions.

She has had a criminal and regulatory practice at the law firm defending in health and safety cases. Uniquely, she then held executive positions in oil and gas and civil engineering and a non-executive directorship in transport. “In one of those roles, I was accountable globally for health, safety, environment, risk and compliance and was very much at the sharp end. What struck me most of all, which is where my connection with Tim comes in, is that it’s very easy as I health and safety lawyer to say to stand up in court and say, ‘well of course this was obvious, you should have had this risk assessment, you should have looked at things in that way’, but then actually when you are working with people and you’re accountable for what those people do in respect of health and safety, you realise it’s not so easy as simply saying that, because generally speaking, people don’t behave in the way that you would expect.

“That’s where I started working with Tim, because what Tim and I talk about is very complementary. I’m able to talk from the perspective as a lawyer, defending when things have gone very badly wrong, with Tim joining the conversation around people’s reactions, people’s behaviours and what led to those accidents and incidents.

“Invariably, in my experience, a lot of health and safety professionals, practitioners, maybe even lawyers, stop at the process procedure failure and don’t necessarily go that one step further and try and work out really what was happening for that person at the time. When you do that, you understand that it’s what the person brings to work every day, how they’re feeling and what’s going on in their lives, that directly impacts on their ability to work safely.”

Dr Tim Marsh PhD, MSc, CFIOSH, CPsychol, SFIIRSM is MD of Anker and Marsh. Visiting Professor at Plymouth University, now focusing on a holistic approach to excellence that incorporates mental health he is considered a world authority on the subject of behavioural safety, safety leadership and organisational culture.

Tim has keynoted and chaired dozens of conferences around the world and written several best-selling books including Affective Safety Management, Talking Safety, Total Safety Culture, the Definitive Guide to Behavioural Safety and Organised Wellbeing. Tim regularly writes for SHP, including his monthly blog, Health and safety… differently.

The pair will be joined at the event by former roofer turned motivational speaker, Jason Anker MBE, who will be providing insight on how to get people to open up, no matter what their mindset is, about their wellbeing.

Jason Anker

Jason’s new talk, ‘It’s not about the fall, it’s about the bounce’ expands on the mindst that he has developed and how different that mindset is to the one he had prior to his accident in 1993, which led to him being paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Technical skills vs people skills

At a recent event I attended, at House of Lords as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, an issue was raised about how we promote and hire people through business based on their technical skills and capabilities, rather than their personable skills and that, quite often, senior staff can find themselves in a position of leadership, without having the relevant skills to lead.

“One of the main angles here,” Tim said, “is not to aggravate or antagonise people. There are simple techniques, like regret, reason, remedy, resolve. When something’s gone wrong, nothing is as good as, ‘I’m sorry about that, this is why it happened, and this is what I’m going to do about it’. But then, importantly, acting upon that and doing it.

“These are not new techniques, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People was published back in 1936.”

Tickets to attend the event in Birmingham on July 4, are priced at £125, plus VAT, per delegate. If you are interested, please contact [email protected].

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