by Ian Ball, HCS Safety Director

18 years ago this October, Zoë and Ian started working together in the health and safety sector.

Early on we had relatively few clients and we often answered “yes we can…” as soon as the words “can you…” were asked by someone.  Often before we knew what they wanted.  We would undertake any work that we thought would help us grow and get noticed.  Zoë joined contractors on a sponsored week which was covered in the local news.  Ian was often asked when he would get a proper job.

The first few years were quite tough, working from when we got up until we had done everything that we could think of for that day.  We worked from our respective homes, the smallest bedroom, or the back room, with Zoë graduating to the garage (with heating) when she moved house.  We tried to speak to each other each day to see how the other was doing, but often only saw one another once per week to catch up.

Training was carried out by Zoë using the local village hall or sports venue. Carting everything she needed there; food, drink, crockery and training aids, and then packing them all away at the end of the training session after washing up etc.

A few years went by and our client base started to grow, most of whom we still know very well today.  We realised that we had two of most things – printers, scanners, fax machines etc.  Training was becoming a bit tedious for Zoë with all the side work that went into the training day.  I did use to offer to help if I was around…

We decided to look for premises.

18 months later we finally moved into Chevron Business Park.  This was 2000 sq ft over two floors.  One floor was a training room and breakout area, the other floor was for staff – Zoë and Ian.  We bought the building on a mortgage and things were very tight after we moved in, only two of us and money was so tight that we didn’t use the heating system, choosing to share a fan heater under the desk.

One thing we didn’t share was the task of the accounts for the company.  Ian always thought that it was such a drudge dreary job that he couldn’t ask Zoë to participate, there are limits.  When the company finally broke free of excel and started using Sage, that was it.  Game over, far too complicated to get involved.  When Sage started to complain that too many errors were being made, Sara joined the company.  Then there were three of us.

With a dedicated training room that could be left set up, we started to increase our training days.  The site visits to construction sites also increased and we took on other staff to cover this work.  With the increase in staff we then found out what it was like to be an employer; with one person who was due to start turning down the position the day before they were due to start.  This was after we had bought the car, mobile ‘phone, laptop and mobile printer (remember those, what a headache it was at getting them to print).

A few years went by and our staff level was increasing.  We had a few office refurbishments in order to accommodate all the staff, but the day came when we had to have more space, so we took the ground floor over of the office next door.  We were a few yards apart, but it may as well have been a mile.  Even though we had one printer for all to use so we still saw each other at those times, it felt as if there were two different companies.  We had to move to bigger premises.

18 months later we moved to where we are today, occupying two floors in a building with three.  It took a long time as we needed to find premises with ample parking spaces for all of our clients attending training courses.  At Holbury we managed to pack cars in tighter than the ferries crossing the Solent.  The floors we took over needed a total makeover, we stripped everything back to basics and fitted it out.  Three classrooms, a large welcoming breakout area for delegates and a staff area that we could all fit into comfortably.  Plus, we had a kitchen with a cooker.  We could now indulge in Friday Fry-ups without going to a takeaway.

We still continued to grow and we had by now diversified away from construction activities to include boatbuilding, manufacturing, leisure, estates, insurance, nail bars, and the European Weather Centre!  Our staff were undertaking and passing the top NEBSOH course in health and safety – The Diploma, so we needed to ensure that their new skills were utilised fully.

After we had been at Millbrook Road West for three years, Zoë and Ian realised that space was getting tight, and that an additional classroom would be helpful to cover training course expansion.  The tenant on the ground floor moved out, and once again we went in and stripped everything out to put in the best that we could afford.  Our administration staff moved to the ground floor, but we were determined to try to make sure that staff still mixed in with each other and had regular conversations.

Each year in March we have a Membership Annual Forum. For quite a few years we have hired the Concorde Club at Eastleigh, a lovely friendly venue.  Unfortunately this year we found out that we had outgrown it, and hence next year we will be at the Hilton Ageas Bowl in the ballroom.  Plenty of space and parking there.

For almost a year now an Operations Manager has been gradually taking over areas that were covered by the Directors, leaving them more time to find new clients and engage with existing ones.  The building is about to have new windows, more space for cars to park, and a new bespoke CRM software package so that our training delegates and clients can be served better.

We couldn’t have achieved all this without tremendous support from all our staff.

So maybe it is a proper job after all.

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by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

A few weeks ago, I travelled to Brighton to deposit my youngest daughter and all her associated belongings into her Halls of residence at University.  In strict adherence to the law stated by one Patrick O’Murphy, her flat was on the top floor of the four available and the lift had decided that it would be best if it didn’t exert itself on moving in day!

I completed a dynamic Manual Handling Assessment and introduced a number of control measures to ensure my state of health was the same at the end of the job as it was at the start, they involved utilising the power invested in my appearance.  With my bushy grey beard and baldy head it’s easy to be mistaken for a frail old man! As well as looking good, my beard, like Gandalfs has magical powers!  It has other benefits, it allows to continue using a comb, I can still look in the shampoo aisle in Boots (other suppliers of hair care products are available) and it keeps my chin warm in winter.

In short, I love my beard! As I go about my business, I meet other bearded men and we often share a ‘nod of respect’ as the first feelings of ‘beard envy’ arise.  As the great Bard, William Shakespeare once remarked ‘He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.’ It gives my colleagues a handy point of reference if they need to describe me ‘Oh you mean Andy, big bloke, baldy head, grey beard’ I hear them remark!

I first started dabbling with full facial topiary about six years ago after I left the Army.  In the military all males ‘must’ be clean shaven below the top lip! Soldiers are permitted to wear a moustache but never a ‘full set’ (beard, moustache and side whiskers). Sailors in Her Majesties Royal Navy are however permitted to wear a full set and can be ordered to shave it off if it is not full enough! On operations in Iraq, shaving was compulsory every day, on operations in Afghanistan, this was relaxed to three days and sometimes up to a week.  The reason for this is the weapons that the enemy had in their arsenal, the Iraqis quite famously had possession of chemical and biological weaponry, the Taliban did not.  The basic Personal Protective Equipment provided to protect soldiers in a chemical environment is the standard issue respirator, a full-face mask with particulate and vapour filters that relies on a close seal to the face to be effective in filtering out what ever nasties those pesky enemies put in the air.

I’m lucky these days to be in a situation where I can choose to wear ‘a full set’ without fear of disciplinary action and extra weekend guard duties or similar summary punishments for not being clean shaven every day of the week.

However, if my boss decides, following risk assessment that RPE is required and they choose to provide me with a close-fitting respirator or face mask to protect my health, then I shall have no option but to shave off my beloved beard and put my chubby babyface on display to all and sundry.

I can guarantee that I would be less than enthused by this, but as I am not practicing a religion that requires me to wear a beard and I don’t have a valid medical reason to wear one, then I’m afraid that I will have to comply with their wishes.

They could look to source me a hooded powered respirator that doesn’t rely on a close seal, but they are really expensive to procure, store and maintain, I’m pretty sure that I’d be dusting off the old Wilkinson Sword (endorsement enquiries welcome) and putting the boar bristled shaving brush into action around my chiselled jaw.

All employers know that they must, as far as is reasonably practicable, protect the health of all of their employees.

This general duty is reciprocated by the employee’s duty to cooperate with the employer, particularly on arrangements that are made to protect the employee in question.

So, when the day comes that I am supplied with respiratory protective equipment that relies on a close seal to my face, I shall wearily trudge to the bathroom and succumb to the prospect of a cold, unadorned, silky smooth chin.

 ‘…Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, and thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action’

Click here for more information on Face Fit Testing.

by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

I had a long day yesterday; roadworks and traffic jams meant my schedule slipped a little.  I was reminded by my smart phone every time I was nearly late with an annoying little ‘ping’ and a notification on the dashboard but thanks to the wonders of the satnav and its route planning ability I made each appointment!  Every hour or so my watch vibrated violently against my wrist to tell me to move as I was starting to resemble a three toed sloth (in case you didn’t know a three toed sloth is a large hairy ape like creature that hangs upside down in trees and takes about three months to do anything!)  I typed a few emails and sent a few messages, each time my laptop or my phone guessed the correct recipient after just a few letters, it even stopped me from sending one email as I’d mentioned an attachment and subsequently forgot to attach it.

I listened to Chris Evans on Radio 2 discussing how the administrators and programmers behind Siri, the apple voice activated system, had starting programming it to only respond to a request that ‘asked politely’ as parents were blaming Siri for their children’s lack of manners! I mean, just what is the correct etiquette when conversing with a computer!

I eventually got in from work and after my car had parked itself, I wandered into the house and as I walked through the hall, a soothing electronic voice asked me if I would like to listen to some music as she/he  (I’m not sure how computers fit into the whole gender thing)  had prepared a play list for me based on my preferences and my recent listening history.

As the very well-chosen play list sparked in to action, I spoke to the lights and set the ‘ambience’ to my preferred level commensurate with my mood as identified by an app on my phone.  She who must be obeyed was running late so to while away the time I started to prepare some food. I took some meat from the freezer and chucked it into the microwave, which enquired as to my intentions then set about defrosting the meaty goodness as I busied myself asking a computerised voice for recipe suggestions (the multitude of recipe books were just too far away – and if I’m honest I’ve forgotten how they work!).  I began preparing the meal, receiving voice prompts and reminders at the key stages throughout the project (yes – cooking is a project that must be suitably managed throughout).

In case you hadn’t noticed, I really take advantage of the ‘internet of things.’  I do love a good gadget, I have literally got one for every application in my life, I talk to the lights in my house, my car virtually drives itself, I generally just have to be there.

It seems that I’m not the only one though. I watch the news regularly and every couple of weeks there seems to be a new robot that is threatening to take the place of people. I read through trade journals and publications to keep abreast of new innovations and the latest safety related invention.

It worries me slightly that so called ‘wearable technology’ and ‘AI systems’ are being introduced to protect people.  I have seen hard hats with sensors and haptic alarms that start buzzing when you enter a ‘danger zone’. I have seen Hi Visibility clothing that does the same but adds strips of highly visible LED lights when you wander too close to the edge of the giant hole in the ground.  I have even seen a system that you can attach to a high-speed circular saw that will sense when anything ‘fleshy’ gets near it and stop it in a very abrupt fashion. The video demonstration makes good use of a sausage to replicate the operator’s errant appendage.  It works, however, the catastrophic damage to the machine means that a whole new machine is required, still easier than replacing a severed hand though.

I spent some time working in the high hazard industry of explosives manufacture where we used robots to handle the highly volatile pellets as they moved around the production from process to process.  Every now and again, there would be a glitch and a hiccup in the system and the robot would go rogue and start dropping highly sensitive explosives around the place.  Part of my role when this occurred was to go into the room and make it safe for the engineers to come in and calm the robot down and show it the error of its ways by giving it a new programme to work with.

These robots were introduced to remove people from the danger areas and to increase efficiency and productivity, great results all around, especially for the extra six ‘robot babysitters’ that were employed as a result.

The reason I am worried about the onset of artificial intelligence and replacing humans with robots are twofold.  The first issue I can see is the growth in reliance on this technology to keep the work force safe. It’s all very well equipping all workers on site with a sensor or an alarm which warns them of the hole in the ground, or the heavy machinery in close proximity – but aside from buzzing like an angry bee – they don’t physically stop or prevent you from exposure to the danger. The second worry is the likely adoption of more and more absurd inventions like the ‘hi vis coat’ that lights up when its dark.  By the increasing use of these technologies we run the risk of forgetting the basics of harm prevention.

If you want some proof of this, observe anyone who normally drives an automatic when they jump into a car equipped with a manual gearbox, I guarantee that they will stall the engine at some point in the journey!

For advice on choosing robots or hi vis jackets with haptic alarms and LED strip lighting, I’m afraid you will have to look somewhere else.

If you want friendly, practical advice or training from a real flesh and blood experienced Health and Safety professional then come and see what HCS Safety have to offer.

by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant


It’s a quarter before work starts.  Everyone starts arriving, general office chit chat is happening, coffees are being made while laptops are woken from their slumber or the working tools of the day are prepared.  The conversation ranges from the latest illness from the duty ‘sick note’ to the happenings on Coronation Farm, to the sporting prowess of the company fitness freak.

We spend, on average, more waking time a day with our colleagues than we do with our families and loved ones. We get to know each other quite well.  We know everyone’s foibles and idiosyncrasies, we know what makes each other tick, we are fully aware of the strengths and (more often) weaknesses of our colleagues. It’s only natural then that after a while, our work colleagues become our friends, people that we can confide in, people that we trust and people that we look to for support when things aren’t going quite right.

Now, it’s no secret that over 25% of the adult population suffer with poor mental health at any given time during their working life.  How big is the work force? If 25% aren’t ‘firing on all cylinders’ the company output will suffer, and instead of exponential growth (I learned all about that in an Ed Sheeran song), it will start to go into exponential decline and that can only be a bad thing (I watched the Ewan MacGregor film – Rogue Trader and learnt about that).

As well as the decline in output and the effect on the bottom line, this may well have a negative effect on the workforce.  Stress, absenteeism, presenteeism – when people who should be working are sitting, silently, suffering, staring – instead of producing the goods, will be where the exponential growth is happening.

Do you know who might be suffering within your team? If not, why not? All you have to do is ask, it really is that simple.

Ask ‘How are you today?’, invariably ‘Fine thank you’ will be the response.

And then the conversation ends.

‘Time to change’ are running a campaign to coincide with World Mental Health day on Wednesday 10 October 2018 called ‘Ask twice’.  The campaign centres around a chap and his mate out rambling in the woods.  One of the pair questions ‘How are you?’ a muffled reply of ‘Fine’ is heard as the camera pans out and the other guy is pinned beneath a giant log, unable to move.




The log symbolises the crippling weight of a poor mental health condition and the ‘Fine when we’re not’ tag line alludes to the stigma attached with talking about a mental health issue.

So how can we do it, how can we broach the subject?

The first stage has got to lie with education – educating the workforce to spot the warning signs in themselves and others.  Educating line managers and supervision staff in how to spot the signs in their teams – and more importantly how to ask the question ‘How are you today?’

If the reply ‘Fine’ comes back, chances are they’re probably not.

‘Are you really ok? I’ve noticed you’ve not been yourself recently? Let’s have a brew and a chat…’

Don’t ask once and leave it at that, if you’ve spotted the signs, ask twice! If there really is nothing wrong, you’ve just had a nice chat with your mate/colleague/employee.  If there is something wrong, well, you might have just helped to save a life.

For more information about the #asktwice campaign and the Time To Change organisation, please visit their website at

For information about educating your work force, doing your bit to break the stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues please get in touch with HCS Safety–  we have a wide range of courses and services on offer to help you look after your most important assets – your people!

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

For those of you that know me, you will understand that I suffer with a degrading and sometimes embarrassing condition – I am a Southampton FC fan. I follow the team passionately and attend as many games as I can (I didn’t renew my season ticket, this was a shrewd investment on my part), I was there when we scored two goals in the same game at West Brom last season. I am an eternal optimist and every week I put my money where my mouth is and place a bet on the mighty reds to win (gamble responsibly, when the fun stops, Stop! etc). When the odds are around 10/1 I see that as a worthy bet with a good chance of getting back ten times as much money as I outlay.

Now, if I were to tell you of simple change to make in your business that would result in a similar return of £9.98 return for every £1 invested, I reckon I’d have your attention. Its all to do with the mental health and wellbeing of our staff.
Currently in the UK we spend approx. £33 – 42Billion per annum with half of this cost as a result of ‘presenteeism’ – when an individual is less productive due to poor mental health and the additional costs that sickness absence and staff turnover create.

The Government spend between £24-£27Billion in providing benefits, costs to the NHS and the subsequent drop in tax revenue as a result of a shrinking workforce and we all know how crucial that kind of money is when it comes to the UK!

More than both those combined is the cost to the economy which is placed at between £74-£99Billion a year!
In my opinion, the cost in terms of the personal impact on the lives of all those involved, family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and managers is far more worrying than the financial losses.

As employers, there is a legal and a moral duty to look after the mental health of our workforce. As we all know the Health and Safety at Work Act places duties on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our workforce.

The HSE have developed a set of six Management Standards and a toolkit to be used in assessing how well stress is managed within your workforce. The management standards focus on those areas which cause the most stress, they are:
• Demands
• Relationships
• Role
• Control
• Management of Change
• Support

By completing an assessment of these areas within your workforce you will be better placed to reap the benefits. By having a happy workforce, we will have a more productive work force and will be better placed to reap the rewards of the £9.98 return per £1 invested in training.

For information and guidance on applying the management standards to your workforce book onto the Mental Health Awareness – Managing Occupational Stress course run at our training centre in Southampton.

For further information on the facts and figures in this blog please see ‘Thriving at Work – The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers’.

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

If you follow sports in the UK you will no doubt have heard of the ‘Power of Marginal Gains’ when it comes to increasing elite level sports performance.

It first became a buzzword following the cycling successes of 2012, straight off the back of the first British athlete winning the Tour de France, the British Cycling teams at the Olympics blew their competitors away with Gold after Gold after Gold both on the track and the road.

This was masterminded by Sir Dave Brailsford who was then the Performance Director for British Cycling.  The theory of marginal gains is a simple one. If you take everything that contributes to the athlete’s performance and increase its efficiency or its effect by 1% and then add all of the 1% gains together, the overall performance or output is increased by the totals of those percentages added together. This has been brought to the fore again by Geraint Thomas’ superb Tour de France win and Simon Yates conquering La Vuelta a España.

The marginal gains employed in these fantastic victories range from the floors of the mechanic’s trucks being painted white and kept spotlessly clean (if a mechanic drops something, due to the contrasting colours, he can instantly see it and carry on); to the athletes being provided with the same bedding and air conditioners in their hotel rooms at every location so that their night time routine remains consistent.

In the world of Health and Safety compliance, the basics, when done well, can have the exact same effect on a business output as they do with high performing athletes.

Take Risk Assessment as an example – often these are generic and passed from task to task with just a change of heading.

The operatives are shown the completed document and asked to sign the back of it to agree that they will work in accordance with it and off they go to complete the task the same way that they have always done it.

They start to do the job and realise that they need an item of equipment or material that isn’t there, they then spend the next period of time looking for that essential item (Did you know that once concentration and momentum on a task is broken it takes an average of 23 minutes to regain it!)

If we apply Sir Dave’s teachings to our Risk Assessment process, we can soon notice marginal gains creeping in and our efficiency and (more importantly in my opinion) our Health and Safety performance improve.

The best person to assess the risks of the job is the person doing it.  By consulting with the workforce and adapting their processes to fit, we stand a better chance of them adhering to the safe system of work that we supply them.

If we conduct a specific RA for every job that we do, and make it site and location specific, we can ensure that we get the right equipment and materials to the right place at the right time and eliminate the regular 23 minute concentration breaks- you only need to do this twice and you’ve gained nearly an hour of productivity.  Do this across 4 tasks involving two people and you’ve saved a whole day’s work. Saving a whole day’s work in financial terms might mean a cost saving and a positive effect on your bottom line, but it will also mean that your deadlines, milestones, targets and programs don’t suffer or slip, resulting in pressure, stress and potential contra charges for lost time.

Winning all around I reckon!

Have a look at our website and see if HCS Safety can assist you in your own marginal gains.


Why not try: Risk Assessment Courses


Southampton based Health and Safety Training and Consultancy company, HCS Safety Ltd, are proud to have signed the official Armed Forces Covenant in a pledge to support Armed Forces personnel and veterans.

The Government-backed scheme was established to encourage businesses to recognise the value that serving personnel, veterans and military families contribute to the country, not just during their military careers but also once they return to civilian life.

Over the years HCS Safety Ltd have developed a great working relationship with the Armed Forces Community. We have recruited a number of former service personnel into key roles within the company. With each branch of the UK Armed Forces represented amongst our staff and regular freelance tutors we find ourselves well placed to serve the needs and demands of the Armed Forces community and offer a helping hand to those personnel about to transition to civilian life.

As well as our accreditations with the UKs leading H&S governing bodies we also offer the service leaver the chance to use Individual Resettlement Grants, Standard Learning Credits and ELCAS funding (Provider ID 3286) to enhance their career prospects and employability with courses from NEBOSH, IOSH and the CITB amongst others.

L-R: Joe (USMC), Hilly (RN), WO2 Brodie RE, Bish (Army, RE)

This week we welcome Warrant Officer Class 2 (Quarter Master Sergeant Instructor) Kev Brodie to HCS Safety as he nears the end of his full career with the Royal Engineers. Kev is joining us for two weeks where he will be shadowing our advisors as they go about their daily tasks. This will furnish Kev with valuable work place experience across all aspects of Health and Safety.

HCS Safety Directors Ian and Zoe signing the pledge


This is the third evolution of our military work experience programme with two former participants gaining employment with HCS Safety.

Paul welcoming WO2 Brodie to HCS Safety


Paul Cook, Operations Manager at HCS Safety said, ‘The Armed Forces do a fantastic job and often don’t get the appreciation they rightfully deserve, that’s why HCS Safety are proud to recognise the value of both serving personnel and veterans.’


If you would like any further information check out our website HCS Safety

If you would like to discuss potential work experience opportunities or training drop us a line to or give us a call 02380894695

Bish talking to the Junior Ranks

As part of our commitment to support the Armed Forces Community, one of our consultants recently delivered a Mental Health and Resilience training session to all ranks of 26 Engineer Regiment based in Tidworth.

  By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

There would be no safety without danger, no danger without a sense of safety.  Safety is all about taking reasonable precautions, and it’s almost common sense… but it seems that the Health and Safety People across the world forgot to tell the songwriters and performers who regularly wax lyrical about their blatant disregard for Health and Safety.

Roy Orbison had clearly never heard of a Fire Risk Assessment when he sang about how ‘Love Hurts’ apparently its ‘like a stove, burns you when its hot’! May I suggest allowing some cooling off time before attempting to touch it, or perhaps a pair of nice chromium leather heat resistant gloves and apron combo when handling it.

I know that pop-stars do ‘a lot of good work for charidee mate’ and for that I applaud them; but what were Mick Jagger and David Bowie thinking of when they encouraged the whole world to start ‘Dancing in the Street’? Now I’m not going to be a killjoy, but any dancing in the street can only take place after suitable segregation has been provided to prevent the dancers from being squashed by the lorries!  And whilst we’re on the subject of traffic, don’t get me started on Ed Sheeran who encourages driving at ridiculous speed on country roads singing along to the hits of Elton John (Castle on the Hill).

Starship set about building cities on rock n roll.  I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find any information on the compressive strengths or bearing capacity of rock n roll. Quite clearly a breach of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations. Whilst we are on the subject of structural stability, did Paul Weller give any consideration to the stability of existing structures when The Style Council sang about walls coming tumbling down? I think not.

Back in the 80s Mark Knopfler informed us all of a really dangerous work place that he knew about (and kept secret) in his song Industrial Disease.  Even the Mother Superior was at it in the Sound of Music when she instructed everyone to ‘Climb every Mountain and ford every stream’ with no cold weather gear, crampons or waterproofs in sight.  I doubt very much if she had any safety boats on standby with a competent crew either. Whilst we are up high I wonder if Led Zeppelin were aware of the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations when they sold the ‘stairway to heaven’?  I can’t see any mention of suitable guard rails or fall prevention in the lyrics.

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 –


‘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.

Andy Bishop, Health & Safety Consultant

I watched the Red Arrows a couple of weeks ago when they performed at the finale of Cowes Week, they were, as ever amazing.  There is something quintessentially British about watching those 9 red aircraft perform death defying feats of precision formation flying and aerobatics in the skies above our green and pleasant land.

The best display I’ve ever seen was one that I forgot was happening.  The scheduled flypast had been cancelled and I was gutted. Then a few days later I was sitting in my lounge watching football when the unmistakable roar of five Hawk trainer jet aircraft made me jump out of my seat and rush outside.  The five ship Enid team were executing a perfect steep banked turn as they ran in to the target area to perform the ‘Goose’ right over my house! They were so low I swear that Red 3 winked at me as he saw me leaping about in my garden like a giddy schoolboy!

I remember watching them training over the skies in Cyprus and going through the rigorous selection process that every one of the Reds must go through before they get issued with the world-famous Red Overalls.  They truly are the best of the best, pushing the very limits of human performance with split second reaction times and nerves of steel.

The selection process for the Red Arrows takes longer that the display season lasts.  Before they are even considered for the role they must have amassed 1500hrs flying time, at least one operational tour and be regularly assessed as above average flyers.  Only three pilots are replaced every year and their tour of duty as a Red lasts three years.  The Team Leader must have completed a flying tour to be considered and undergoes the same assessment process as the remaining members of the team.  One of the most important aspects of this is team cohesion, if their character doesn’t fit the team, they won’t get in, it’s a s simple as that.

For me the Red Arrows epitomise the word team, they seem to magically know what each other is doing and they can focus on seemingly impossible situations at a rapid rate. They are also cool characters, if you have ever been lucky enough to meet them after a sortie, it’s amazing just how cool they are, they climb out of the cockpit and saunter over to the reception area like you and I would walk to the front door of the supermarket after pulling off a skilled reverse parking manoeuvre in the car park.

The reason they can do this is because they operate in their peak performance zone.  They have arrived there following years of intensive training and months of rehearsals for each display that only lasts for fifteen minutes.

Can you imagine the carnage that would result if they didn’t go through all those hours of training and preparation? It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Within our own workforces we should treat each employee the same as a Red Arrows pilot, we might not expose them to the same levels of performance requirement, but we will expose them to work related stresses if not positively managed.  We need to give them the correct skills to develop in their field and regularly assess and monitor the demands that we place on them.  They should have a clearly defined job role that lets everyone know exactly what is always expected of them. We should foster good working relationships between all our staff and treat all team members with respect.  If people don’t understand something or are worried by anything at all we must have the means to offer encouragement and support.

To learn more about managing stress within your workforce, why not book onto our new Mental Health Awareness- Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress course.

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