Anyone who knows me well will know I love a good inspirational quote, so I thought I’d start this article with a few.

We all know the famous maxim “practice makes perfect”, but it’s a little overused. I prefer the quote from 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” And perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt said it best in 1951: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

It’s doubtful either of these great thinkers was talking about health and safety at the time they spoke these words, but as professionals in that field there’s a lot here that we should be mindful of, and really reflect on for our own work.

Think about Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, substituting the word “peace” for “health and safety”. There won’t be a (good) chief executive or board on this planet that doesn’t think it’s a good idea to protect their workers from harm or ill health. After all, it’s common business sense – the healthier and happier your workers, the more productive they are; the more time they can spend free from injury or sickness, the more time they can spend at work, helping the business to grow and thrive.

But it’s not enough to believe in health and safety. “One must work at it.” It’s only by working hard on improving our policies, processes and staff knowledge and involvement that we can really excel in the field. And it’s the latter that I’m going to focus on in this article, because only by keeping our workforce’s skills and knowledge up to date, can we truly keep our people safe.

If we don’t, we may discover that Emerson’s quote can be applied in an altogether more concerning fashion: that we may learn our lessons only when we live the experience of something going wrong – someone getting injured, being made ill, or worst of all, dying.

In other words, let’s not learn our lessons when it’s too late.

Training is an important part of an effective system of managing health and safety, and can help instil a culture of practice that’s needed to ensure we’re not learning lessons too late. It can equip managers, supervisors, team leaders and health and safety representatives with the knowledge and skills to undertake their role. On top of this, being able to demonstrate that your company has a solid foundation in occupational health and safety could be crucial in winning orders or key contracts and attracting and keeping high-quality staff. Having people properly trained should also prevent the unnecessary bureaucracy that comes from misinterpretation of regulations.

“we’ve identified that one of the biggest issues facing the health and safety community right now is that of fatigue”

Where to focus?

Here at RoSPA, we develop our training programmes by using what we call the “policy driving excellence, delivering change” model.

This means we identify emerging issues or trends in occupational injury and ill health before designing products to help our partners tackle them, and thereby maximise the effectiveness of what we do and help more organisations tackle more injury and ill health, helping more people live longer, happier lives.

We do the first part through our National Occupational Safety and Health Committee. This is a group of health and safety industry professionals from a range of organisations – including from an array of sectors working both forprofit (within energy, waste management, fleet, housebuilding etc.) and not-forprofit (such as RoSPA and the Health and Safety Executive), and qualifications bodies such as IOSH and NEBOSH). The committee allows us to scan the horizon, and provide bellwethers to identify where action could be most effective.

We’ve identified that one of the biggest issues facing the health and safety community right now is that of fatigue.

As the world of work changes, so do working patterns. Across the world, you can see this emerging in what is known here in the UK as the gig economy, in which temporary appointments are common and there is a proliferation in the number of independent practitioners. Think companies like Uber, or Deliveroo, and the kinds of contracts they have with their employees; the hours they work can be long, unsociable and sporadic.

But it’s not just this “new” kind of work where fatigue is having an impact.

In a recent high-profile case in the UK, in 2015 a bus run by a travel company called Midland Red (South) veered off the road in Coventry, killing a child who was riding on the top deck and a woman who was a pedestrian. It transpired that in the time leading up to the crash the driver, who was 77 at the time, had worked more than 70 hours per week. The court was also told that the driver had been subject to a host of complaints and warnings about his driving, and that he had been involved in four minor collisions while behind the wheel of a bus.

The driver was deemed unfit to stand trial due to health conditions, and was handed a two-year supervision order after a finding-of-facts trial. The company, however, was handed a fine of £2.33million after entering guilty pleas to health and safety failings.

You might see a trend emerging here; much of our concern about fatigue is around those who drive for work.

It is estimated that a third of all crashes here in the UK involve someone who is driving for work, and any company that operates a fleet must do all it can to reduce this number, protect their employees and ensure a duty of care to members of the public.

A huge 95 per cent of crashes are actually due to human error, meaning 95 per cent of crashes involving fleet vehicles can be addressed by ensuring drivers are adequately equipped for the road.

But while the driver is of course fully in charge in the final moments before an incident, everything in the lead up to that will involve decisions made by the employing organisation: the choice to employ that driver, their training, the routes used, the vehicle selection, loads, schedules, and monitoring of movement. These are all also elements that will form part of an investigation following an incident.

Historically, generic driver training will often be the first – and sometimes only – port of call post-incident. Over time this has changed, and more attention has been paid to improving the standards of the individual driver. This can however be time consuming, expensive, and often inappropriate.

Prior to the identification of training needs, we recommend taking a Managing Occupational Road Risk (MORR) approach.

MORR is a concept that has been developed over the past 20 years by RoSPA, in response to a 1987 review by the UK’s Department for Transport that urged companies to “take in accident prevention within their management interests”, and to bring the treatment of occupational road safety into line with the attention paid to general health and safety at work.

At its heart, MORR calls on organisations to undertake a gap analysis of their policies, processes and procedures, and identify areas for improvement. It is essential that companies not only have policies in place, but carry out the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” continuous improvement process.

RoSPA commissioned a review in 2012 into what progress had been made in implementing MORR policies. The review unfortunately found that in smaller organisations it was viewed as a marginal fleet management activity rather than an activity that should be embedded strategically at board level.

Doing the latter will enable continual review of training needs, not just for fleet managers and drivers, but also for senior management.

Once this is done, driver training should begin with driver assessment. It is important to use the results of driver assessments to identify training needs, and to inform the type and content of any training provided. The results of assessments should also inform any other management changes, such as amending a route or journey schedule.

After this has been undertaken, there are various training options and it is important to select the most appropriate to your staff member’s situation.

What training?

Driver education in seminars or workshops can cover defensive driving, the main causes of crashes, poor driving increasing risk, potential consequences and the company’s policy on driving. Driver education should not just focus on skills and vehicle control, but also on higher-level issues such as journey planning and how personal characteristics can influence risks.

E-learning courses can cover the same issues, and often include an assessment or test. They are the less expensive option but do not provide the same opportunity for interaction or discussion.

On-road driver training and advanced driver training may be more suited, or you may feel that introducing driving tests might be a better way to ensure driver safety – some employers make it a requirement to achieve a minimum grade.

Consider training for specific vehicles, familiarisation training when employees will be using a different vehicle, and country familiarisation for staff coming from or going to work overseas (this is particularly important, as different countries will have different driving cultures (for example when turning left into side-roads), and drivers must be aware of and know how to handle these situations).

Companies may choose to employ their own in-house driver trainers, or commission an external organisation. Whichever option is taken, companies should make sure the trainers are properly qualified and experienced, and this is how RoSPA meets the “excellence” part of its operating model.

Away from the road

I’ve focused here on driving for work, but please don’t get me wrong – fatigue is a pressing issue for all other workers, too.

There are increasing demands placed on the body and mind by the prevailing “always-on” culture, whether due to being unable to switch off from work duties, or being tied to societal pressures by social media.

Another slow-burn issue also on the horizon that needs addressing today is the emergence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

MSDs are injuries or pain in the human musculoskeletal system, including the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck and back. More often than not a person who works in a manual handling role is more likely to develop a back issue and subsequently an MSD than someone who doesn’t (although not always the case).

Many of my friends, family and work colleagues have had their lives affected by MSDs – I estimate that 90 per cent of my network have suffered from back pain, upper limb disorders and repetitive strain injuries linked to what they do at work – yet it’s easy to prevent them by creating the right conditions. Tasks involving significant physical effort, repetitive movement and poor physical posture should be avoided. Where
avoidance is not possible, control measures, like training, must be put in place.

“the outputs of risk assessments and lessons learned from accident and incident investigations may also flag up training needs”

To identify where fatigue and MSDs could be having an impact on your workforce (and business productivity) and what subsequent training may be needed to tackle the issues, we recommend an approach similar to the one outlined above.

It is important to conduct a needs analysis to identify the issues that are truly important and the skills gaps that need to be filled. This will ensure that resources are targeted appropriately. Involving staff and their representatives in this process is crucial and external help
can be sought if necessary. The outputs of risk assessments and lessons learned from accident and incident investigations may also flag up training needs.

There are a number of approaches after this has been done, but one of the most popular is the development of in-company courses.

How to develop in-company training

To meet their specific needs (following needs analysis), many organisations all over the world are turning to in-company training, as it offers a number of benefits like cost savings, convenience, team building and tailored teaching.

In order to successfully design an in-company training course, a business must use its needs analysis to benchmark for objective-setting, enabling measurement of the effectiveness of any training administered. Objectives should be written in behavioural terms (i.e. what learners will be able to do at the end of the training) and reflect the knowledge, skills and attitude gaps already identified.

After this has been done the course can be designed, identifying the following:

  • What resources are needed?
  • What is the time-frame for developing the course?
  • How many learners?
  • How often will the training take place?

Make sure the course design includes variations of approach to suit all learning styles, whether it be online or through traditional classroom-based learning.

Before rolling out the training programme, it’s imperative to assess the validity of it beforehand, using current employees as a focus group, or a small number of new employees in a pilot scheme. From this, a business can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the new course, making sure the learning objectives have been achieved, and making necessary changes before going live.

It’s important the trainers are fully equipped to deliver the course, so make sure they have the relevant knowledge and skills to achieve the identified outcomes. This might require prior training from in-house managers, seniorlevel trainers, or perhaps external trainers. In-company trainers should know how to motivate learners, and how to utilise different delivery methods to ensure they are engaging learners with course content effectively.

Making sure the business is equipped to manage its resources is crucial in order to deliver training without affecting operations. These resources can include goods and equipment, time, finance, and labour. For classroom-based courses it is important to stagger the training to allow all employees to attend without impacting on the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Careful planning is also required to take into account holidays, sickness and busy periods. For e-learning training it’s a different sort of planning – employees must be given time to complete the course, but it may be prudent to allocate set times for them rather than leaving it to roll-on without a pre-agreed end date.

Finally, once an in-company course is up and running, it’s important to ensure the course ticks all the boxes. To do so, external course approval will give you peace of mind that you’re on the right track.

There is of course more than one way to crack the nuts of on-road risks, fatigue and MSDs, though hopefully this little guide will have provided a few ideas.