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Adam Bannister is a freelancer journalist who has held various editorial positions, including as editor of SHP's partner publication for security & fire safety, IFSEC Insider (formally IFSEC Global).
May 1, 2023

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Culture and behaviours

Lessons from court: health and safety solicitor Amy Sadro previews Safety & Health Expo talk on workplace accidents

Attendees may wish to ‘revisit the building blocks of how health and safety is done in their organisations’ following Sadro’s forthcoming Safety & Health Expo presentation.

Amy Sadro

Amy Sadro, Principal Associate at Eversheds Sutherlands

The root causes of health and safety incidents are usually familiar, according to a leading solicitor in the field.

Amy Sadro, Principal Associate at Eversheds Sutherland, will look at some notable court cases around workplace accidents and what we can learn from them at Safety & Health Expo next month.

Amy has significant experience in high profile litigated health and safety cases. She successfully defended the mining company prosecuted for corporate manslaughter following the 2011 Gleision mining disaster and was instructed in the inquests related to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombings.

As well as representing clients during regulatory investigations and prosecutions she also undertakes holistic safety reviews examining health and safety arrangements and how they can be strengthened, and advises clients on work-related stress, mental health and wellbeing.

Speaking to SHP, she offers a sneak preview of her forthcoming presentation, which will divulge behind-the-scenes details of some recent, interesting legal cases, and consider the implications for how organizations mitigate risk and handle incidents and subsequent investigations.

SHP: What kind of people, in terms of job roles, might your presentation be of particular use to?

Amy Sadro (AS): Health and safety professionals can learn from the section about legal cases and what we can learn from them.

But in fact, the session will be helpful for everyone from board level throughout an organisation because health and safety is everyone’s responsibility – we’ve all got a role to play in creating and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment.

SHP: How do you expect attendees can benefit from attending your talk? 

Safety & Health Expo

Safety & Health Expo

AS: I think we can all take learnings from incidents that have occurred in other organisations, especially those that have been through the court process and were under significant scrutiny from the regulator.

I’ll talk about a number of cases with features like previous incidents or warnings that something serious might happen, or people not adequately understanding how a near miss might have prompted them to think something was wrong and they ought to have done something differently.

So I suspect there will be a lot for people to take away in terms of revisiting the building blocks of how health and safety is done in their organisations, particularly in areas they might think are a ‘tick in the box’ and are working well.

SHP: What are the most common problems you encounter when conducting safety reviews?

AS:  One of the primary issues I see is the gap between how those at senior levels in an organisation think safety operates and what people on the ground tell us about how safety is managed in relation to their day-to-day work.

There is often a significant difference between the two and it is in that gap that there is an opportunity for an incident.

It is not uncommon after an incident for the management to become aware that a procedure was not being followed by those doing the work because it wasn’t practical, they did not have the right kit, or time constraints meant they had found a workaround. If the system on paper is not reflected in practice, then those systems are of very little value.

What we do in our reviews is make that missing link because that’s where you’re going to make the most significant safety gains – even more so than introducing a new piece of equipment, new programme or new training.

It’s also getting these different levels in the business talking openly about health and safety as part of their business as usual. Everyone should have a valid voice in that conversation.

SHP: The UK performs comparatively well internationally in terms of numbers of workplace-related accidents and fatalities, but in which specific areas is the country still performing badly and why?

AS: We know the higher risk sectors with a higher prevalence of incidents and injuries include sectors like waste management, agriculture and construction. But the takeaway from my session is that all organisations can be vulnerable to an incident because safety relies on people doing the right thing every day, over and over again, and humans are fallible.

I also think that we have lots more to do on work-related stress, mental health and wellbeing and understanding the scale of that problem – and that conversation is really only in its infancy.

SHP: What are the barriers to progress on work-related stress, mental health and wellbeing and how can we overcome them?

AS: Firstly, a lot of organisations have really good intentions and I have seen lots of examples within my clients of good initiatives and ways of doing things that will have had a positive impact on their workforce.

But many organisations are still relatively early in that journey, and as a consequence are trying to provide support for when an employee is already suffering health issues rather than getting in front of any problem.

Secondly, organisations are often starting from a point of little understanding of how big the problem is within their organisations. Organisations need to understand where their starting point is and then test different interventions to see what makes the most difference and adjust interventions over time.

Those interventions also need to be end to end. If someone approaches their manager and tells them they are suffering from work-related stress, is that manager supported in having that conversation? And what process does it trigger to support the individual and manager in tackling the issue?

I believe it is only really over time that you will really start to see improvements. It has taken decades to get a really good understanding of safety management and bring incident figures down across a range of sectors. So I suspect it will be a similar longer term journey for issues like stress, mental health and wellbeing.

Amy Sadro will be speaking on the morning of Tuesday 16th May at Safety & Health Expo in the SHP Keynote Theatre, which is sponsored by IOSH. The event takes place 16th – 18th May at the ExCel, London. Register to attend here.

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