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The Safety Ripple Effect

Published on: 11 Apr 2018

QAInspector The Safety Ripple effect Rachel Corbett and Shona Paterson, met with Duncan Aspin, Head of HSEQS for VolkerStevin, to discuss his approach to safety management. They asked Duncan to tell us about the way he is driving a positive approach towards health and safety across his organisation.

He is currently in his third and final year of an MSc in Behaviour Change at Derby University and is utilising this knowledge, along with his extensive site experience, to develop an industry leading behaviour change programme in VolkerStevin.

Shirley Parsons aim to promote best practice and share success stories across the industry. Duncan’s initiative is demonstrative of how dedicated Health and Safety professionals make a positive impact every day; not only upon employees of the organisations in which they operate but upon every individual they influence. Duncan realised that behavioural safety programmes often fail to maximise the benefits that can be achieved by focusing on specific behaviours, in a positive environment and engaging in active participation. This is what he had to say to us:

A move towards a positive approach to health and safety

“As focusing on the positive side of human behaviour is gaining traction in psychology, so too there is a movement towards a positive approach to health and safety, encapsulated by Sidney Dekker’s, “Safety Differently”. It seems almost incomprehensible that we would look to improve behaviours and culture by concentrating only on what people do wrong, and yet for decades, this is exactly what has happened. Even with the progression from a blame culture to a just and fair culture, it is still focused on what went wrong, usually by recognising the differences between unintentional and deliberate acts and assessing accountability for actions. Whilst there is merit in this approach, in terms of recognising that the reasons for things going wrong rarely rest in a single act, human error is still the focus. There has been a steady increase over the past decade or so of construction companies introducing behavioural safety programmes, with some anecdotal evidence of success. However many of these programmes start with the premise that we need to fix the person, leading to some now starting to say that behavioural safety has had its time. Perhaps it is not that behavioural safety has nothing left to offer, but that it is time for such programmes to take a different direction.”

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