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.
January 28, 2022

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Health and safety… differently

You have to ask yourself… ‘Do you feel lucky?… Well, do you!?’

Tim Marsh discusses the nature of luck and why individuals and organisations need to pro-actively and systemically work to maximise the chances of enjoying a fair share regarding the human factor.

This article is not an attempt to nudge the editor into using a photo of Clint Eastwood as illustration – though it would of course ‘make my day’. Instead, this is an article about some films and TV I watched and some books I read in 2021 that, I’ll argue, are all about the nature of luck and why – in 2022 more than ever – both individuals and organisations really need to pro-actively and systemically work to maximise the chances of enjoying a fair share regarding the human factor. (See the book ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed).

Long-COVID

snookerMy forefathers are all from Cwm, which is a pit village just south of Ebbw Vale. It’s the houses in the foreground of the painting ‘Ebbw Vale’ by LS Lowry. You may not have heard of it, but you’ll probably have heard of its most famous son, the snooker player Mark Williams, three times a world champion. In 2021 Mark was playing in the UK Championships. It’s the second biggest snooker tournament in the world and he was playing well, winning his match 3-2 when he fell asleep in his chair in the middle of the sixth frame… very publicly suffering badly from ‘long-COVID’. Not surprisingly he lost the match and it quite possibly cost him £188,000.

Linked to this, you may have noticed a marked increase in ‘please treat our staff with respect’ notices, when you’re out and about. I certainly have and when I ask, I’m invariably told ‘yes, people seem a lot grumpier and ruder than usual’. Now this might be because we’re fed up of rules and restrictions and the fact that nothing seems to work and/or be available anymore and every sodding phone call I’ve made for years is always, by remarkable coincidence, at a time of ‘unusual call volumes’. However, it also, I’m sure, reflects the fact that fatigue just makes everything worse. It also, of course, makes arguments, bad decisions and accidents far more likely.

In short, fatigue is a major symptom of long-COVID and a huge risk factor any wise organisation will seek to proactively manage in 2022.

Emotional Trauma

A fascinating book about forensic psychology by Kerry Daynes (‘What Lies Buried’) suggests that the world boils down to just two things – pain and love. Previous articles have suggested ways in which organisations can make staff feel – well genuinely valued if not actively loved! This sub section is about the pain though… and we all know that there is plenty of everyday pain going around due to bereavement, failing relationships and 1001 other causes of heartache.

It’s well documented that many have been traumatised and left anxious and uncertain by the pandemic but many people will have barely noticed because they have far bigger issues to deal with. Earlier this year I watched the documentary (‘Football’s Darkest Secret‘) about the sexual abuse of footballers. It’s a truly staggering piece of film making and a powerful reminder that many people fail to make it out of childhood unscathed. (The ONS estimates that around one in five are abused in some way as children and that abused people are five times more likely to struggle as adults in a variety of ways as they suffer from PTSD and vicious circles generally).

The point is that even before COVID, mental health services, especially for young people, were officially ‘failing’ in the UK and quite frankly anyone, of any age, who gets even adequate support is lucky. Following COVID, however, every mental health statistic is heading steeply in the wrong direction – including for NHS staff themselves. With the financial consequences of COVID likely to be with us for a decade or more funding is not likely to improve much despite the endless warm words about mental health being a ‘top priority’.

In short, 2022 would be a really good year to pro-actively look after your wellbeing as adequate support and help will be even harder to come by because almost no-one reading this will be all love and no pain.

‘Blues and Twos 1’ – What Price Justice?

Even before COVID lengthened waiting times books such as ‘The Secret Barrister’ made the case strongly that, following austerity cuts, the legal system in the UK is on its knees. The stunning ‘Four Lives’, about the serial killer Stephen Port, illustrated just how under resourced and (often) under motivated many police forces are. (Ironically, the film seems ludicrously dated to better times. Characters simply walk in to police stations large and small to chat to a desk Sargant. It didn’t do them much good, but they were able to at least speak to someone. In 2021 I could only report an Anker and Marsh incident to police after a month’s attempted calls by queuing with some ‘weekly sign in’ asylum seekers at south Manchester’s only ‘manned desk’. Did us no good either! They pointed us at a different force on a technicality… who pointed us straight back on another!)

In short, 2022 is not a year when you want to be interacting with the legal world. If nothing else you’ll most probably find it very stressful!

‘Blues and Twos 2’ – Where the Hell is the Ambulance?

We all know that hospital waiting lists are at record levels, hospital staff exhausted and ill and the ambulances service feeling close to non-existent. I’m not the only person who, last year, had a 90 year old parent have to wait 12 hours on a cold bathroom floor with a broken hip. (Though see Radio 4’s terrifying ‘Deadly Delays’ for far, far worse examples).

So again, 2022 is a year when keeping your wits about you would be wise and really not a year when you want to be the victim of an incident or accident. Not only that the NHS really needs you to keep well clear please as it clears the backlog!

What to Do?

Well, Malcom Gladwell’s famous book ‘Blink’ has some practical advice for individuals. It discusses the benefit of alertness and intuition and can be summarised as: ‘if you walk into a bar and feel uneasy it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just about to be jumped… but you’re a bloody idiot if you don’t stand near the door whilst you work out why you feel uneasy”. Or as Britain’s leading spy master put if “trust everyone to set up virtuous circles… just verify everything”. But you can’t just be alert – you have to prepare for it.

Anyone who doesn’t already know how to ‘look after themselves’ regarding key issues like good sleep, healthy diet, positive thinking, resilience building and stress busting exercise, deep breathing and the like is a lost cause frankly! This article is simply suggesting that 2022 would be a really good year for us to maintain those New Year’s resolutions and keep as ‘heads up, wits about you’ as humanly possible!

From an organisational perspective companies need to keep in mind that 2022 may well be a very tough year and proactively roll out holistic and impactful wellbeing processes in a meaningful and embedded way. ‘Bikes and bananas’ tick box initiatives just won’t cut it.

So, the very best of luck to us all and as a worldly-wise desk sergeant once said “Let’s be careful out there”. (And a free copy of my new book to the first reader to leave a comment referencing that quote!).

Read more from Tim in his monthly SHP blog series…

Read more feature content from Tim, here.

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.

stress

Related Topics

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
19 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Martin Murray
Martin Murray
5 months ago

“Let’s be careful out there” great piece. Long covid worth considering in investigations

tim
tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Murray

If you can reference the quote Martin I’ll send you the new book (well if you’d like one that is!)

Martin Murray
Martin Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  tim

Hill Street Blues

Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Murray

Hi Martin – In One! Thank you for playing ! I’m [email protected] if you’d care to send me an address … Tim

Paul Adams
Paul Adams
5 months ago

Good old Hill Street Blues! Interesting article.

Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Adams

Thank you Paul.

Andrew McLean
Andrew McLean
5 months ago

So we all have to be good to ourselves, and if we can’t be good, be careful? Am I alone in thinking this is just a little depressing, what happened to us all pulling together and all coming out of the pandemic stronger. Or has our trust truly been eroded by knees up Boris and his party hat cabinet. And if so is this lack of trust translating into a new “I’m alright Jack attitude”?
I hope not.

Last edited 5 months ago by Andrew McLean
Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew McLean

Hi Andrew – the article a response to noticing yet another ‘please don’t abuse our staff’ poster in a shop … It’s not meant to be a depressing article. Just one that says ‘this really isn’t going to be the year to be unlucky and/or need help’ (so re-read the key messages in Matthew Syed’s ‘Bounce’ and then apply them best you can). PS They say sceptical is fine but cynical not allowed … but when I look at events in London (contracts for mates onwards) in America and around the world … I find I really struggle to keep… Read more »

Geoff Davidson
Geoff Davidson
5 months ago

Ahh Tim, also a fan of Hill Street Blues, great programme! Nice reference and very relevant today

Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Davidson

Thank you Geoff.

Roland Atkins
Roland Atkins
5 months ago

I’m curious now, what’s the title of the new book?

Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  Roland Atkins

Thanks for that question Roland! It’s “Talking Health, Safety and Wellbeing: Building an Empowering Culture in a Post-COVID World”. (It’s based on the original talking safety but now explicitly covers Mental Health. (See the recent article on ‘The law of ‘I’m fine’ etc).

Roland Atkins
Roland Atkins
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Ah, got the earlier edition. Will have to look at the piggy bank in a month or two’s time

David Batten
David Batten
5 months ago

Thank you for focusing on the principle of ‘being aware of danger’. You don’t have to be afraid of life in general, but assessing the environment that you find yourself in, is only good practice. I guess the ‘films’ I would reference to highlight and emphasize the point, would be about Bourne, or Sherlock Holmes, who assess the environment that they find themselves in.

Tim
Tim
5 months ago
Reply to  David Batten

Thanks David. Yes, Gladwell definitely tipping a hat in that direction with his ‘stand near a door’ comment. I’m certainly not suggesting we all need to live in fear. I’m really rather risk tolerant myself (poacher / gamekeeper etc) but I am suggesting that people who, by nature, “worry too much” are going to be, in the next year or so, less ‘wrong’ than usual!

Dave Hazell
Dave Hazell
4 months ago

Great read as always Tim. I’ve decided that this year is the “rainy day” that we’ve all been saving for and it’s time to take a bit of a break – putting my Personal Protective Behaviour “bump cap” on and taking some time out to question why, after all these years, we still differentiate between Mental & Physical Health and why priorities wax & wane betwixt the two, depending on which way the winds of changing interest rates are blowing.
Keep inspiring us with your insights, my friend!

Tim
Tim
4 months ago
Reply to  Dave Hazell

Thank you Dave – that’s very kind! Enjoy your re-set … Tim

Linda Green
Linda Green
4 months ago

A really good article Tim – as always……..
May 2022 bring us together with thoughtfulness, professionalism and respect. Best wishes everyone

Tim
Tim
4 months ago
Reply to  Linda Green

Thank you Linda … is it too cynical to say though that’s a beautiful sentiment … so far the omens aren’t all that great! (But just because we can’t solve all of the world’s problems doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive our hardest to address the ones we can) Tim