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‘People jumping on bandwagon’ over Grenfell Tower disaster

The Grenfell Tower disaster dominated the opening  keynote debate at Safety & Health Expo 2017.

Laing O’Rourke’s HSE Director, John Green, said it was ‘far too early’ to know the cause of the disaster, and he felt uneasy about ‘people jumping on the bandwagon’ about the issue.

He said: ‘A building is a complex network of systems – it’s an awful more complex than looking at just one aspect of the building.’

Nick Bell, managing director of Nick Bell Risk Consultancy, added that drones inspecting the Grenfell tower, where it was unsafe for humans to explore, was ‘an excellent example of how technology is impacting H&S’.

Paul Bizell, operations director, RM OCAID, said ‘there were some sensible comments from the media about Grenfell tower’ and about current legislation.

He said: ‘We have the regulations it is just about how we apply them. The question is how much do we want to spend on the regulations we already have – or if we want to throw them out.’

Brexit

The panel also discussed Brexit, and the impact it would have on the health and safety community. Nick Bell said ‘Brexit won’t make a change’ – and he wasn’t sure associated deregulation ‘was a bad thing’, and that the issue tied into the Grenfell disaster.
He said: ‘If it is about simplification it is a good thing, if it is to dilute, it’s not – as I’m sure the investigation into Grenfell tower may show.’

John Green said as a country, we were ‘not good at self-regulation’. Although he said he ‘would prefer the industry to develop its own products and working practices rather than bureaucracy.’
Ruth Gallagher, safety improvement director at Heathrow Airport said Brexit and potential deregulation wouldn’t shift how she works.

She said: ‘I know what the right thing for safety is, but we may need to step up as an industry and start setting ourselves standards of what is the right thing to do.’

Mental health

Ruth Gallagher also referenced mental health issues.
She said: ‘We have now created an environment where people are more open to talk about it.

‘We need to reach out to managers across our businesses and recognise when people are not at their best.

Steve Hails of Tideway agreed: ‘We’ve shouted safety and whispered health.

‘Mental health needs a wake-up call. It is about raising awareness and addressing stigma.

‘Not sure regulation will help, but the plan is to bring it in anyway.’

Behavioural safety

Nick Bell said he had a ‘real issue’ with behavioural safety.

He said: ‘We train humans the same way we train animals. It sounds a bit like a Stalinist re-education camp.
‘I believe in empowering workers to make the best decisions that they can make.

Paul Bizzell agreed and said you not to look at the situation in the round. He said: ‘You need to be looking at all the components of your culture – language, physical environment, behaviour.

‘Looking at just behavioural does look a bit ‘1984’ in culture.’

Steve Hails said: ‘We’ve got to look for something different. It seems like we are ticking boxes. Let’s empower and create the processes that make it much simpler for individuals.’