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Don’t be frightened of risk but embrace it. Risk can be your friend….

All too often in business people talk about eliminating risk from the workplace but in reality, this is extremely difficult to do. In actual fact if we look at human nature, we see that people seek risk.

People do parachute jumps, ride motorbikes, drive cars really fast, go scuba diving and much more.

We are risk takers because with risk comes reward. The buzz and excitement of doing stuff.

In your workplace I am not talking about being reckless but what I am saying is allow people to work on the edge of risk but in a way where if it does go wrong it’s not fatal.

Let’s take a simple scenario of a 110m hurdler. They have a simple aim to get from the start line to the finish in as quick a time as possible. If they jump too high then they go slow, if they jump too early, too late or too low they hit the barrier. These scenarios end in failure because they get beat.

Jumping too high - what does that mean in business? It means you may have too many controls, too much safety; you lose productivity, performance and profitability. The work becomes difficult or impossible to do because people are shackled by too many rules that they don’t understand or don’t believe in.

Jumping too low – You haven’t set your health and safety controls high enough, you are not aware of the risk and how it can impact on people. You haven’t properly analysed the risk in the business and determined the appropriate controls or you don’t ensure the controls remain in place.

Jumping too early or too late – This is demonstrating that your systems and procedures aren’t clear enough, or understood, or followed or believed in.

But how does this really play out in business. Well I think there are two elements here.

  • The height of the controls is down to the business, you set how low or how high the standards need to be.
  • Jumping too early or too late is down to the employee. What you need to do is give the employee the confidence to know when to make the call. Allow them to weigh up their surroundings and encourage them to make these calls on a daily basis. Why? Because they do, all the time.

Every day we make errors and most of the time we get away with them. So rather than looking at things when they go wrong start looking at things when they go well and look to see if your systems, procedures and processes reflect what people actually do.

Are they robust?

If the answer is no, then really look at what is the worst scenario if things go wrong. If the downside of the activity or the calls people make when doing the activity is so serious then introduce checks and balances so if you fail you fail safely. The automotive industry has been doing it for years. It is inevitable that there will be car crashes, so manufacturers have improved the design of vehicles, braking systems, tyres, airbags, crumple zones and drive chains to try and minimise injury. They don’t always stop the incident but if it does occur then the injury is greatly reduced. It has become a selling point, not that you won’t have accidents but you will have accidents safely.

So, look at your workplace and see how you consider risk as you design. Making risk an integral part of your daily activity will make you and your team more risk aware and more resilient.

If you need help establishing the direction you want to take health and safety in your workplace and would like a chat then please drop me a line at [email protected] or call 07799 656303.

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