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
represents 25,000 safety and health professionals in industry, commerce and the
public sector. Tel: 0116-257 3100; www.iosh.co.uk