By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

‘What do you mean you didn’t bring it with you!’ screamed the angry Corporal who had just asked me to show him an important piece of kit from my rucksack, ‘It was on your kit list.’ He muttered something about the skill set of junior soldiers then pointed out a hut on top of a nearby hill, ‘Go and read what it says on the front door.’
‘AND HURRY UP!’ he yelled as I started to trudge towards the hill, carrying a 25kg rucksack and a 5kg rifle, I’m sure I muttered something about my perception of his parentage as I was on my way.

As I approached the door to the range hut I could see a bright red sign that read ‘Hut 5b, for access call the range warden’, I noted down the instruction and the range wardens telephone number in my notebook and set off back down the hill, my kit rattling and shaking as I bounded back towards the angry Corporal. ‘Well, what did it say?’ he demanded, I reached into my pocket and read the instruction complete with telephone number from my notebook, confident in the knowledge that my punishment was over, ‘Incorrect’ he replied with a knowing look in his eye, ‘Off you go again!’ he instructed.

As I stomped up the hill again, the straps of my rucksack cutting into my shoulders and the rifle getting heavier with every step, I pondered what I could have got wrong? I probably copied one of the numbers down wrongly. I arrived at the door and looked, and checked and wrote it all down again, I even made a sketch map of the door and drew the sign on it. Confident that I had the numbers in the right order, I set off back down the hill at breakneck speed. As I marched back towards the Corporal, he announced ‘You had better not read out the same as last time’, ‘Turn around and get back up there!’ he barked, ‘This time go to the FRONT door!’ It hadn’t occurred to me that the small hut atop this hill would have two doors. As I arrived, I went straight to the other side, and true enough there was another door there. I looked for a similar sign to the door that I had previously visited but none were there, all that greeted me was some spray-painted graffiti.
I turned and headed back down the hill, wondering what would happen next. I tentatively approached the Corporal anticipating another run up the hill and recited the only legible statement amongst the painted nonsense –

FAIL TO PREPARE – PREPARE TO FAIL

‘Good Lad’ he praised me ‘Find out who said that and tell me when we get back into camp.’

It has been cited to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. That phrase stuck with throughout my military career, and now as a Health and Safety Professional it still resonates strongly in everything that I do.

It is so simple, by failing to prepare for what life throws at us, when it happens, invariably failure is an outcome. Unfortunately, failures in relation to the Health, Safety and Welfare of our work force can be incredibly costly both in financial terms and ultimately in terms of life.

Planning of tasks and work activities is a fundamental part of any Safety Management System as illustrated by the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ model recommended by the Health and Safety Executive guidance document HSG65 – Managing for Health and Safety.

As part of our Membership Service scheme, HCS Safety can help you with your safety management system and help you prepare for your success.

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