HR: Health and Safety first

During my morning run I saw two near-accidents of children on their way to school on their bicycle while using their smartphone. Using your telephone while cycling (or driving) is very dangerous.

When I look back at the period I worked at Arcadis (2006-2014) my behaviour was most probably most changed by the emphasis that was put on the importance of health and safety. Not only at work, but in other parts of your life as well.
Four elements I learned at Arcadis, and that could be inspiration for HR teams.


I. The Health & safety moment
At Arcadis each meeting (generally the meetings with more than two persons) started with a health & safety moment. During this moment one of the participants would tell a health & safety related story, and with this story as input a short discussion took place and some lessons were drawn. The experienced ‘meeting tigers’ would always have a couple of stories ready, just in case. The power was in the discipline and the repetition. If you do this every meeting, the message is clear: we seriously care about health and safety. Also to new employees and to external partners, clients and suppliers the message came across strong.
An example: when you are driving your car, and you are waiting in your lane until you can turn left, only turn the steering wheel in this direction when you really can drive. When you do this earlier and another car hits you in the back, your car is pushed on the wrong side of the road and you might be hit again by traffic driving towards you. A simple message, but I am sure many drivers never though about this. I could only find a UK picture as illustration, but the principle is the same.
II. T.R.A.C.K.
TRACK was used as a kind of mantra in all kind of situations. The picture is in French. In English the TRACK sequence was: Think through the task, Recognise the hazards, Assess the risks, Control the hazards, and Keep health & safety first in all situations.
TRACK is applicable in all kind of situations.
It helps at home or on holiday as well.


III. Stop Work Authority
You know the situation: you are in taxi from the airport to your hotel, you are not in a hurry, and the taxi driver drives like you shouted to him: “Follow that car! An extra 100 if you do not loose him!”. While driving he is phoning (telephone in his hand) with a colleague about a possible next assignment. What do you do? Do you intervene and ask him to drive slower and stop phoning? Or do you just hope for the best? Everybody is responsible for health and safety, and it is your responsibility to intervene when you see or experience a dangerous situation. And not only at work.


IV. Rigorous measurement
Rigorous measurement and reporting of accidents and near-accidents are crucial for any health & safety system. Luckily in most organisations accidents are rare. The more important to record are report are near-misses, as they give an indication where it might go wrong in the future. In companies with a healthy health & safety culture (most Oil & Gas companies for example) you will see no hesitance to report a near miss. When you have good data on health & safety performance, you can use this to make organisations (and households) safer.

In my family they have accepted some measures, like not driving without safety belts (also in the back of the car, also in taxi’s). They do not like it, though, if I ask them to hold the handrail.
Personally I have my limits as well. It will take a while, for example, before you will find me on a normal bike with a helmet. When you see people cycling with a helmet on a normal bike (not race- or mountain bike) in The Netherlands, they are generally Germans.

Final message: if you have children, please advise them to stop using their telephone on the bicycle (or in the car, if they are older and driving).

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