The subject of this year's national safety symposium - the annual conference of the Iosh Public Service Specialist Group - was "human behaviour and learning for the 21st century".
Held in September over three days at Keele University, the 25th anniversary symposium focused on the future of health and safety for local authorities and public service bodies and the increasing importance of human behaviour on health and safety.
The second day saw several presentations that concentrated on these behavioural aspects. Lyndon Shearman, a consultant from Key Health and Safety, introduced the concept of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and showed how it can influence health and safety thinking. NLP is a discipline which looks at how and why people interact with their surroundings, other people and themselves. It shows that we respond to our own map of reality and not to reality itself. Shearman explained that if a person perceives health and safety as a nuisance and an obstruction, then their perceptions must be changed. As an example he suggested that when carrying out a safety inspection, instead of looking for hazards, note down safe conditions and actions and feed these back to your staff. This should reinforce a positive perception of safe practice.
The topical issue of occupational stress was raised by Ros Taylor, director of Plus Consulting. Taylor, a chartered psychologist, presented a guide to understanding stress and to developing coping strategies for a workforce.
Taylor suggested a simple method to help individuals combat stress. The "one-minute breathing test" is a way of relaxing and shows how poorly most of us breathe. Count the number of breaths taken in a minute - 10-12 being the average. When we are tense our breathing tends to speed up automatically, so by slowing it down we can also decrease our heart rate. A deeper, slower breath rids the lungs of stale air, stops us feeling dizzy and helps relax our muscles. When we repeat the minute, slowing down each breath, notice how calm we become and more prepared we are to face the next hurdle.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health re