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IOSH - Ex-rugby star and pilot says human factors vital in OSH management

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
6th November 2017

Human factors are a crucial element of health and safety management, former England rugby international Rory Underwood MBE told a major food and drink conference, held on 10-11 October, was co-organised by IOSH’s Food and Drink Industries Group and the Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum.

While there are a “wealth of procedures in the safety world”, he said, incidents still happen because “humans make mistakes”. Rory used his experience of flying planes at high speed and low altitude to demonstrate how mistakes can be made by people even when health and safety management systems are in place. He added that when mistakes are made, it is vital that organisations take human factors into account. 

He said:

“How do you manage people when they do something wrong? This is a challenge that organisations face. You need to be able to get the best of them in the future, rather than demotivate them.” Rory also told conference delegates, including health and safety professionals and other leaders from the food and drink industry, it is important to know when to be focused and when to be aware. He said: “You cannot be both at the same time. Flying a plane, if I become totally focused on doing something I will not be as fully aware of what is going on around me. Knowing when to be focused or when to be aware comes from training, knowledge, skills and experience.”

Health issues presented by the ageing workforce and musculoskeletal disorders, and the health and safety sentencing guidelines were among other topics covered at the conference, held at the Oxford Belfry. Delegates also heard about an electrical safety DVD which has been created by the IOSH group. Louise Taggart, whose brother Michael was killed in an electrical accident, gave a presentation. Updates were also given on the Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum’s work and the IOSH Food and Drink Industries Group’s strategy, through which it aims to build members’ knowledge and increase its reach. 

John Boyle, Chair of the IOSH group, said:

“The focus in our industry is very heavily shifting towards health, and in particular occupational health and wellbeing. Issues include musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease. It can also be a very stressful environment”. “At our conference, we look to equip the health and safety practitioners so they are more effective and more rounded and help them to be able to deal with boardroom situations.”