FCS Associates

Health & Safety – what does it mean for micro businesses?

June 6, 2015

By Andy Sorsby

As the owner of a micro business, when you are involved with a new task, do you often find yourself faced with the question “.. is this really safe?”

If you do hear yourself asking this question, be thankful, it is your brains way of telling you that perhaps you should think about the situation a little first before proceeding.  If you don’t hear yourself asking this question and you, or an employee gets harmed, then depending on your arrangements for H&S management you could well be either incapacitated if it is you that was harmed, or be facing a potentially uninsurable claim and the involvement of the H&S Executive.

Health and Safety for Micro Businesses

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Foresight and Hindsight
Unfortunately, the above paragraph is a paradox. Remember the cliché – hindsight is a wonderful thing? I often add to this ..”and foresight is a gift”.  Generally human beings learn from their mistakes, or from situations that give rise to heightened sense of emotions resulting in adrenalin flow because of how close we came to making one.  The same is even truer for accidents than it is for mistakes.  I am sure we have all felt that sickening feeling just after the rumble strips on the side of the motorway have disturbed our doze!!  What happens if we had steered the other way?  You get my point.

Now what if we look at this example a little more closely from an independent viewpoint. The first question we find ourselves asking is “Why didn’t we stop when we first felt tired, or even when we dozed off for a split second moments in the time preceding?” Both very valid questions and both answerable.  The top answers usually for this are, we needed to get somewhere, someone was relying on me, we thought we could get through it, nowhere safe to stop.  These are all intriguing answers and bring us full circle to the paradox that is hindsight and foresight.  Let us play devil’s advocate to each of those questions.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

We needed to get somewhere – why?

Someone was relying on us – why?

We thought we could get through it – why?

Nowhere safe to stop – why?

Let us now turn this on its head and assume we had the gift of foresight to enlighten our decision making.  Taking each excuse in turn;

We needed to get somewhere – You never actually made it because you fell asleep and the rest is messy.

Someone was relying on us – That someone was relying on you to arrive in one piece.

We thought we could get through it – Based on what evidence.  Do the maths of dynamics and motion and work out the facts.

Nowhere safe to stop – There was 15 miles ago when you first felt very tired and 2 more exits that followed the services where you could have pulled off and sought refuge.  Ever wonder why motorway services display tired – take a break? To make money yes, but more importantly to save lives!

Now for Mr ‘Goody two shoes’ to tell you what you should have done.  When you first felt tired, you have to make a decision about what you are going to do about it. Ignore it or carry on? I would advocate that 99.5% of us at the first signs will carry on.  How many of take this a little further – until we can find a safe place to stop and take refuge.  This is the ideal solution to then re-focus on the excuses that presented themselves earlier.  If the tiredness has not gone away significantly by the time you reach a safe place – STOP.   If it has you will almost certainly arrive safe and well as the moment of tiredness has passed.

If you stopped because it hadn’t improved and didn’t carry on then give yourself a pat on the back.  You will almost certainly have established that the place you need to get to will still be there when you do arrive.  If the person is relying on you to get there, they will almost certainly accept you late and safe rather than never and particularly if you phone them.  If the tiredness hasn’t gone away it is highly unlikely you would have got through it quickly and it would have taken some unforeseen intervention to bring you round.

So what is this all about – the answer quite simply is RISK.  Learn from the mistakes others have made rather than making them yourself.  Tiredness signs are on a motorway because people fall asleep when they are tired.  Warning signs are on machines because others have got hurt using them.  Guidance is given to display screen equipment users because the incorrect use of them has lead to people suffering harm to the eyes.

As the owner of a micro business has the above helped your perception of Health and Safety Management?

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