At the root of health and safety exist rules and compliance and as safety officers, we are all well versed in local and potentially (depending on the remit of your role), international law.
And it is the legal aspect of health and safety that is largely responsible for helping to create a culture of health and safety which has seen injuries and fatalities at work plummet (see our post 40 Years of the Health and Safety at Work Act). However, while ‘playing by the rules’ to establish the foundations on which to build good health and safety practices, are organisations today putting too much emphasis on rules and regulations? Are we preoccupied with adhering to them and, by inference, sanctions on rule breakers, rather than looking at the bigger picture and taking account of the human element of health and safety?
Committing to the concept of zero
Getting employees on-board with the concept of zero is generally not a difficult task. Everyone agrees to a basic right for themselves and their loved ones to come home safe and injury free at the close of their working day. As such, the concept of zero relies on human emotions for buy-in. However, it is the very human element of safety that leaves this concept open to criticism. In the communication of zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero incidents tolerance (Roughton & Crowley, 1999), work needs to be done on establishing whether the message that is being communicated by management correlates to that being understood by staff. For example, when committing to zero incidents, does this mean that management doesn’t want any incidents, or is the message being received that they simply don’t want to hear of incidents?
Hypercompliance – overzealous or raising the bar?
There has been much recent discussion on the concept of hypercompliance in safety – increasing rules and legislated standards to a higher level for improved safety performance. In occupational health and safety terms, hypercompliance is about ‘raising penalties surrounding absolute rules’. However, there are genuine concerns as to whether, while admirable, hypercompliance may be taking occupational health and safety in the wrong direction – resulting in more rules that don’t necessarily equate to a safer workplace and a lack of engagement from the employee. It is safe to say that hypercompliance polarises practitioners and will continue to divide opinion in the field of health and safety…
Hearts and minds to achieve goals
Ultimately, achieving consistent perfection is not a human reality. In order to be able to reach a goal, that goal needs to be attainable – and if your employees do not think a goal is reachable, you may well have difficulty in establishing buy-in to the concepts. It would therefore be advisable to set interim objectives (in a broader plan) to ultimately reach zero. Health and safety requires a hearts and minds approach in order to be productive. You have everyone on-board with your concept of zero, so your next step is to make that concept achievable to establish commitment to that goal. (See here our post on setting SMART objectives). And rather than relying on hypercompliance, consider how you can best appeal to human nature when seeking to improve safety records.
Time for change?
Understanding human behaviour
In order to appeal to human nature, we must first be committed to understanding it. Humans aren’t robots; we are fallible; we will make mistakes, however it is how we deal with these mistakes that defines us.
Establishing a clear picture of human failure types will provide an understanding of implementing appropriate measures to address them. The HSE has developed a useful flow diagram representing human failure types, together with typical mitigating control measures.
Understanding human factors is key to getting OHS right. According to the HSE, “Human factors refer to environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety”.
The human factors’ definition above covers 3 interdependent aspects to be considered the:
Of note here is the individual – including his/her competence, skills, personality, attitude and risk perception. These individual characteristics influence behaviour in complex ways. Some characteristics such as personality are fixed; others such as skills and attitudes may be changed or enhanced.
More information on Human Factors can be found on the HSE website.
Skills and Attitudes
Skills and attitudes are key variants within an individual’s ‘make-up’ that can be addressed to ensure that organisational safety standards are improved or maintained:
Skills – ensure that your staff are appropriately trained
According to Arthur D. Little, ‘…the dynamics of lasting change are best understood in terms of a company’s capacity to learn’. The accelerating ability to learn and improve has been called the one sustainable competitive advantage for today’s organizations. Companies that demonstrate the ability to continually improve are those that consistently learn from experience and systematically use that learning to fuel further change. By incorporating continuous learning into their safety performance efforts, organisations keep moving safety management forward.
Attitudes – establish a safety ‘vision’
Once committed to fostering a learning culture, senior management in many companies articulate a goal of ‘zero injuries’ by ‘x’ time and, if they are committed, they will have anointed this as the ‘safety vision’. However, contrary to popular belief, a successful vision is not one created at the top and shared by telling (an approach that tends not to result in widespread commitment) neither does a numerical goal constitute a vision. Moreover, an effective shared vision, is one that enables each employee, at every level in the organisation, to ‘fully understand his or her (safety) roles and responsibilities’. Beneath such a shared vision, individual safety visions are consistent and mutually reinforcing with that of the organisation. In turn, all staff members will have a clear picture of what constitutes a safe workplace, how they are expected to help create and maintain said safe workplace, and what they are expected to do about potentially unsafe situations.
Have you adequately addressed skills and attitudes to health and safety in your organisation?
Taking a look at root causes (the underlying prime reasons for an accident or incident), will offer an insight into areas for improvement. For example, was faulty design, failures of management systems, inadequate training or a maintenance deficiency to blame in any one incident? Or perhaps it was a combination of several factors together that were responsible? Either way, unsafe conditions, unsafe acts and contributing causes (factors that, by themselves, do not lead to the conditions that ultimately caused the event, however, these factors facilitate the occurrence of the event or increase its severity) are areas that management and organisations are responsible for ensuring against.
For advice on fostering a learning culture within your organisation and support on climate surveying, visit our website:
Here at Astutis, our team of Learning Developers has been busy updating our NEBOSH Diploma course materials to reflect the latest syllabus update (November 2015).
NEBOSH reviews and updates its Diploma syllabus every 5 years. Following extensive research, the changes to the course content reflects the knowledge and understanding required by health and safety practitioners in the modern workplace. Taken from the latest guidance released by NEBOSH, we’re going to break down exactly what these changes mean for you as a current or future student.
How do you learn for work?
If you are asked if you have undertaken any staff development or training for your job, what do you think about?
- Is it a training course that has taken you off the job and into a classroom for a few hours or days perhaps?
- Or maybe it is an online, distance or e-learning course that you have worked your way through in your own time?
- Do you think about the things you have learnt on the job, or from your colleagues, who may have given you feedback on your work so that you can improve?
- Or do you learn from informal conversations with people … who work in the same field as you, but who you might only connect with via social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter?
Or is it a mixture of all of these?
I know that, in the past, if I was asked about staff development, I used to mainly think ‘what training courses have I been on?’ Not anymore though!
Current thinking is that we learn at work and for work in all of the ways described above. And that it has actually been like this for years … but now we have a ‘model’ that describes this learning in a bit more of a structured way. Ever heard of the 70:20:10 model? Each of the numbers represents the proportion of time we spend learning at work / for work in a particular way. Can you work out which number represented which type of learning?
Well, current thinking is that:
- 70% of our learning is from real life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problems solving.
- 20% is from feedback on your work, as well as from observing others.
- 10% is from formal training such as courses, both face to face and online.
But the 70:20:10 model is flexible and varies from workplace to workplace and from person to person. Some organisations have embraced the idea of the 70:20:10 model and are looking at it to inform their approach to learning and development.
A recent report on 70:20:10 from Towards Maturity indicates that many would like to modernise their learning strategy, optimising the opportunities presented in day to day working life, taking advantage of the role technology and online learning has to play in this, thus enabling more flexible learning for everyone.
What does this mean for you?
Even if your organisation is not adopting a more 70:20:10 approach to learning for work, there are still things you can do:
- Be aware of learning opportunities all around you at work. This can be as simple as getting into the habit of reflecting on how things have gone at work, building on the positives and working out what you would do differently to improve the next time.
- Embrace feedback from others (good and bad) and, where necessary, learn from it and make changes for the better.
- Connect with people with similar roles to you via professional networks such as LinkedIn or other online communities.
- And if you do have the chance to go on a course, make the most of it as you may not have the opportunity to learn in this way very often.
Choosing the right course has never been easier, especially with the increase in the number of online courses that are available. Online or distance learning provides a flexible option that means you can fit learning around your life and work – existing commitments that can’t be ignored. This type of formal training offers ultimate flexibility in up-skilling to meet current standards, legislation and the other formal requirements of the stringent HSE industry.
For more information on how you or your organistion can benefit from flexible training that fits around existing commitments, either on an in-company basis (for multiple staff members) or for one-off courses, visit our website:
In the UK: www.astutis.com
Outside of the UK: www.astutisinternational.com
Many students studying NEBOSH Certificate qualifications get confused with the NEBOSH
“Command Words” in Certificate exam questions.
Frequently, students will ask questions such as:
“What is a command word?”
“What do they mean?”
“How much detail do I need in my answer to get good marks for these command words?”
“Have I written enough to answer the question correctly?
NEBOSH have produced a comprehensive guidance document explaining
what Command Words are and how questions should be answered for each type of Command Word. This guidance can be found at the NEBOSH web page – select the PDF document from the list on the right of the NEBOSH web page called Guidance on command words -certificate. The guidance is available in 6 languages in addition to English.
What is a Command Word?
Command Words (or action verbs) are used in the learning outcomes of the Certificate syllabus to indicate how much and how deep a student’s knowledge and understanding should be of that particular topic or area.
The same command words used in the learning outcomes can then be used in exam questions to test the student on that particular topic or area.
What do they mean and have I written enough in my answer for that Command Word?
Generally speaking, command words such as “Explain” and “Describe” require more detail than “Identify” or “Outline”.
The information below is based upon the NEBOSH guidance referred to and may prove useful in explaining what each command word means and the level of detail that may be required in your answer to the exam question. Download the Astutis NEBOSH Command Words table .
Command Word: Identify
What does Identify mean?
Write down the things, issues, and items. Normally a word or a short sentence will be enough, providing it is clear.
Example Question and Answer (taken from NEBOSH Guidance) using Identify
Identify FOUR types of safety sign AND give an example in each case
Prohibition signs – e.g. No smoking
Warning signs – e.g. Caution hot surface
Mandatory signs – e.g. Wear hearing protection
Emergency or safe condition signs – e.g. first-aid box
Command Word: Give
What does Give mean?
Write down an example of, or the meaning of something. Normally a word or a short sentence.
Command Word: Outline
What does Outline mean?
Write down the important, key points or issues. A long description is not required. What is needed is a short summary of the key / important points of what is asked for in the question.
Example Question and Answer (taken from NEBOSH Guidance) using Outline
Outline FOUR types of safety sign.
- Prohibition signs: circular with a red border, red diagonal bar and a black symbol
- Warning signs: triangular with a yellow background, black border and symbol
- Mandatory signs: circular with a blue background, white border and white symbol
- Emergency or safe condition signs: rectangular with a green background, white border and white symbol
Command Word: Describe
What does Describe mean?
Write down detailed information about the main features of something. It should be factual and without trying to explain anything.
When describing something, another person should be able to see in their mind what you are talking about.
Example Question and Answer (taken from NEBOSH Guidance) using Describe
Describe the mechanical hazards associated with a bench grinder
An entanglement hazard would be associated with the rotating spindle that the abrasive wheel is mounted on. Drawing in and trapping is associated with the gap between the tool rest and the rotating abrasive wheel. Friction or abrasion hazards would be associated with the surface of the rotating abrasive wheel and stabbing or puncture hazards could be created by flying fragments or pieces of ejected broken wheel.
Command Word: Explain
What does Explain mean?
Write down an understanding of an item or issue.
This is checking that you know or understand something.
This word often appears in questions as “Explain how…” or “Explain why….”
Example Question and Answer (taken from NEBOSH Guidance) using Explain
Explain how sensitive protective equipment (trip device) can reduce the risk of contact with moving parts of machinery.
Sensitive protective equipment is designed to identify the presence of a person or body part within the danger zone of machinery. Examples of such devices include pressure mats and light beams which are connected to the machine controls and would stop the machine rapidly should a person or body part be detected.
Make sure that you read the exam question carefully, identify the command word and understand what it is required of you within the context /meaning of the question. You should also practice questions with different command words in your own study time to give you a broad experience in answer questions with different command words.
Command words are there to indicate how much understanding and knowledge you
should have for a particular topic within the Certificate syllabus. You can therefore use them when preparing for exams to check if you have enough knowledge and understanding of that topic.
Don’t let command words confuse you and worry whether you are writing enough in your answer to satisfy the command word in the question. Don’t lose sight of what the question is asking you.
Use the guide above to understand what is required by each command word. Let the command words guide you in your answer to enable you to demonstrate in your exams the level of knowledge and understanding you have.
Many of you may have heard the drums beating about online learning, virtual or distance learning and how more people are participating in online training courses. You
might be wondering whether it could work for you, but you are worried about whether you or your employees have the expertise to make use of the technology, especially if you are sat on your own with no-one on hand to guide you.
You won’t be surprised to learn that there is a lot of misinformation about online learning, and a lot of bad examples of online learning courses. Let me answer some of your questions, allay your fears and you may find that it is a good, and for some, the best, option for professional learning.
Is fear of technology putting people off?
There has been research done to find out what prevents people from participating in online learning. One of the biggest fears people have is that they will be expected to use technology that is unfamiliar to them. If this applies to you, rest assured that you are not alone. Click on this post addressing how to overcome 4 top fears of online learning.
The best courses are the most straightforward to use and you should have options that provide guidance for all learners however they feel about technology. You will need to use a computer, but the technology should not get in the way of the learning. It is the training provider’s role to ensure you can access things easily and each step is well explained leaving you to focus on getting the most from the course.
Not all online learning is created equal
I still sometimes see examples of ‘online learning’ based around classroom presentations, with some additional features that have not been well thought out or explained. This is not typical any more, but it is annoying that you are often required to pay your money before you can find out what a course is going to be like.
I’d strongly recommend you ask a potential provider for a demo version you can trial first-hand of the course, or see if they have YouTube videos showing how the course works. If they are confident in their offering they should have no problem with this. If you are considering training for a number of employees then I would suggest this is an essential step before making your decision.
How to ensure confidence in the use of technology
How can you be confident about using the technology? And as an employer how can you make sure that your employees feel confident enough to participate?
A good online course will have detailed guidance on how to get the most of the course, detailing IT requirements and how to make use of them. Ideally this will take different forms (written, audio and maybe video) to accommodate different preferences for modes of learning.
It is important to make sure employees have time and guidance in using computers and accessing web-based learning, especially if using computers does not form a major part of their day-to-day work. If you are in charge of your own learning, then you will need to make sure you have time allocated to ‘getting to know the course’ and making sure you are comfortable with what you will need to know about the technology.
Having good IT support in place will help to ensure that worries about technology will not get in the way of learners concentrating on the learning.
Won’t I be learning on my own?
Well, it’s true that you won’t be sitting looking at other people learning like you would in a classroom, but equally you won’t be feeling guilty replaying that video over and over again because you haven’t quite grasped it, or be waiting around because someone else wants the explanation repeated for the third time!
A good course will offer you the chance to contact a real person for help where you need it. If you get stuck there may well be a discussion forum where you can ask a question or maybe find out how things are done where someone else works. You should have someone that you can call or email for more help or clarification. Just because the course has been created for you, it doesn’t mean the training company can say – that’s it, you’re on your own now!
Some higher level courses may offer features such as live webinars, with tutors presenting
selected parts of the course and allowing for real-time question and answer sessions. While these may take a bit of getting used to, if they are well organised with practical ‘how to’ support, it should not require high-level technical expertise to effectively participate.
Trial online learning yourself
Given that many fears about the use of online learning technologies are unfounded or can be readily addressed, now is the time to trial online learning. Whether you are looking to improve your own professional knowledge or that of your workforce, online learning is a real option and using technology to learn shouldn’t be any more intimidating than using it for everyday work. There is plenty of advice out there to help you get started and get the most out of e-learning.
Considering an online NEBOSH or IOSH health & safety course?
If you’re still unsure, why not have a 5-day trial of Astutis’ online NEBOSH or IOSH course? It is a free, no obligation short demo where you can have a taster of the course you are considering and see, if it is for you. Click on the accredited online course link below to watch a video and then trial it first-hand:
- IOSH Working Safely E-learning
- IOSH Managing Safely E-learning
- NEBOSH National General Certificate E-learning
- NEBOSH Construction Certificate E-learning
- NEBOSH Diploma E-learning
- In-company Online Learning for Staff
Our post writer Daniel Kerr MA PGCE
Daniel is one of the Learning Designers at Astutis; he joined Astutis following five years as a secondary ICT teacher, championing the use of Internet technologies to support classroom learning. Daniel has recently completed an MA in Education, looking at the role of information technology in education.
Laptops, PCs tablets etc. – we all use them at work, at home and on the move; they have become almost like another vital organ we can’t live without. However work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD) are increasing – with 40% of all days lost due to WRMSD ill-health in Great Britain in 2014/15. The impact of not managing our health when using DSE can have a significant effect on the quality of our life resulting in living with muscular aches and pain affecting all areas of our body.
Needless to say there are potential health problems with the use of PCs and laptops and similar devices (generally referred to as Display Screen Equipment or DSE). I’ll review the main health issues associated with DSE use, and what you and your employer can do to minimise the risks, in the workplace and at home. Read the rest of this entry
In a keynote address to the recently formed ‘CDM Forum’, which has been widely publicised in the industry, a former Chief Executive of the HSE stressed the importance of the ‘Industry Taking Responsibility’ in matters of design and management. Using his first-hand experience of the catastrophic effects of the 2011 earthquake aftershock on the city of Christchurch, Geoffrey Podger cited two main reasons why 115 people died in the Canterbury TV building. Firstly, the building was designed incorrectly, and secondly, the contractor who built it was not competent to do so. Clearly, these are significant causative factors, and although, thankfully, events such as large earthquakes are not the norm in this country, those points are exactly the sort of issues which the CDM Regulations 2015 are supposed to prevent. Read the rest of this entry
Effective environmental performance is paramount for businesses today to operate competitively in the global marketplace. Companies recognise the value of sustainability to underpin organisational strategy and this brings a need for environmental skills in the workforce at all levels. More companies of all sizes across all sectors are upskilling their workforce with the appropriate qualifications and/or employing more environmentalists to manage and implement environmental and sustainability objectives. Sustainability will be a significant element of any job regardless of the sector, affecting office workers to engineers. Read the rest of this entry
In this blog we are going to look at the specialist area of Airside Driving and best practice. Safety compliance in airside driving is essential in avoiding dangerous and costly accidents.
Airside Driving has its own hazards, not least the movement of various forms of aircraft and speciality vehicles. In addition contributory factors for hazards need to be considered and control strategies must be in place. Read the rest of this entry