Page 11 - IOSH Magazine March 2019
P. 11

Column

                                                               Alison Thewliss MP
                                                               Chair, APPG on Working at Height


        Amnesty management                                             Falls from height is the number one cause of deaths in
                                                                       the workplace. Unfortunately, for the ten million people
                                                                       in the UK who work at height, decision-makers have yet
        culture contributed                                            to place this at the top of the policy agenda.
                                                                         I hear from businesses in my Glasgow constituency
                                                                       about the challenges facing people who work at height,
        to ‘toxic’ environment                                         especially in construction and engineering. This is why,
                                                                       with the support of the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and
                                                                       Manufacturers’ Association, the All-Party Parliamentary
                                                                       Group (APPG) on Working at Height was set up.
        A report into staff wellbeing   to supervise staff with limited   In 2014, the standardised death rate in the UK was
        at Amnesty International   time and resources.                 0.55 for each 100,000 employees, one of the lowest in
        has called on the human      In many cases managers            Europe. However, with every fall potentially resulting in
        rights group to improve    were “being overwhelmed by          life-changing conditions, more must be done to stamp out
        its managers’ relational   their own responsibilities,         poor practice and protect workers.
        and communication skills,   being unavailable, being             Throughout 2018, the APPG collected extensive
        emotional intelligence and   unable or unwilling to help       evidence on why so many of our friends, colleagues
        ability to deal with conflict   their reports prioritise their   and family members leave for work in the morning and
        after the work environment   work, and generally failing to    do not return in the evening, and what practical steps
        was described as often “toxic”.  provide effective guidance and   should be taken to create a safer working environment.
          The independent review   connection as a manager”.                             The enormous response from
        into the non-governmental    Although the findings showed   In Scotland, a fatal   industry was testament to
        organisation’s (NGO) workplace   many employees had a good   accident inquiry is   the importance of this issue.
        culture was commissioned after   relationship with their individual              Industry is constantly finding
        two staff took their own lives   line manager and felt they   carried out when a   new ways to improve the safety
        in 2018.                   supported staff wellbeing, there   death results from    environment for its workers. Now
          The KonTerra Group report   also appeared to be a strong “us   an accident at work  policy makers must catch up.
        (bit.ly/2S66Jwr), which drew   versus them” dynamic and a                          At present, a lack of empirical
        on electronic survey findings   “troubling lack of trust in the                  data prevents us fully grasping
        from 70% of the workforce   senior leadership team”.           the root causes of falls from height. This is compounded
        (475 staff), as well as 75 staff   The review found the        by a cultural obstacle when it comes to supporting people
        interviews, found workload   number of accounts of             to report unsafe practices. From the responses, it is clear
        and management culture     bullying, racism and sexism to      that a system of enhanced reporting through RIDDOR is
        contributed to the top five   be “disconcerting”.              required to record the scale of a fall, as well as the work-
        reported sources of stress. Some   Details of these accounts   at-height method used and circumstances surrounding
        39% of staff reported they had   will be presented to Amnesty’s   the incident.
        developed mental or physical   secretary general in a private    The APPG also noted the importance of recording
        health issues as a direct result   report with a recommendation   near-misses and minor incidents that do not result in
        of working for the NGO.    that an external provider           more serious injuries. A greater understanding of why
          Led by an assessment team   investigates them.               incidents happen can help to change behaviours and
        of international psychologists,   One of the KonTerra report’s   prevent more serious falls. These systems alone will
        the report found Amnesty   main recommendations is that        not prevent such incidents – cultural change is needed
        International’s recent     Amnesty should provide more         to ensure workers feel able to disclose information
        restructuring had contributed   and better access to counselling,   confidentially without fear of repercussions.
        strongly to staff pressures.   improve crisis and critical-      On 26 February, the APPG published Staying Alive:
        Driven by the NGO’s global   incident response protocols,      preventing serious injury and fatalities while working
        transition programme, the   and further educate managers       at height, which highlights the inconsistency of safety
        restructuring had “exacerbated   and staff about resilience and   regulation across the UK. In Scotland, a fatal accident
        already existing tensions by   supporting others in distress.  inquiry (FAI) is carried out when a death results from
        creating significant disruptions   The management failures     an accident at work. FAIs are not about apportioning
        to team structures and resulted   were first highlighted last year   blame through criminal proceedings but are a process
        in further divisions between staff   when an independent external   to establish the facts surrounding a death. To protect
        and leadership at many levels”.  review by employment lawyers   workers adequately, an equivalent system to Scotland’s
          As the programme         at barristers’ chambers Matrix      FAI process must be extended to the rest of the UK.
        unfolded, many long-term   found Amnesty International           There are also areas of safety legislation that require
        and experienced staff left,   had failed to support long-      further consultation. The APPG is calling for a new
        taking with them decades of   serving researcher Gaëtan        digital technology strategy, which would include tax
        institutional knowledge and   Mootoo, who killed himself       reliefs for small businesses and sole traders to enable
        expertise. Many reported   after complaining of stress         them to invest in the latest technology. Every individual
        being “pushed out”, leaving   and overwork.                    deserves equal protection from falls, regardless of the
        remaining, long-serving staff   Six weeks later, intern        employer’s size. We also need a major review of the
        to take on their work.     Rosalind McGregor killed            culture surrounding work at height and to do more to raise
          The reviewers noted that   herself at her family home        awareness in more difficult-to-reach sectors.
        many line managers felt    in Surrey. A separate inquiry         The APPG’s work does not stop here. Our report is the
        considerable and competing   concluded that she had been       first step in a wider process of systematic and cultural
        pressures, caused by heavy   distressed for “personal          change. We have made radical recommendations to
        workloads, the demands of   reasons” and that the NGO bore     government and it is now time for policy makers to act.
        senior managers, and having   no responsibility for her death.

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