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


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