CSG: Safe People

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on April 11th 2019

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/safe-people

As you probably know, we take our Health & Safety responsibilities very seriously, here at CSG.  Last April, we held our inaugural ‘Health & Safety Week’, something we’ve repeated this year.  As part of our developing focus, we’ve decided to turn this very broad topic into four more clearly-defined areas: Safe SystemsSafe EquipmentSafe Environment and Safe People.  First up, we’ll investigate what is covered by the Safe People element…

Safe People

There are few words more entwined within our company’s DNA than ‘people’.  We recognise People as one of the four ‘pillars’ that support the CSG brand, making us what we are, defining our success.  If you spend any time with our MD, Neil Richards, you’ll soon learn that his mantra “it’s all about the people” is more than just a handy catchphrase, it’s a deeply-held philosophy.  With that in mind, it’s inconceivable that we wouldn’t dedicate a quarter of our focus on the way our people can contribute to ever-higher safety standards.

Our Compliance Manager, Sarah Taylor explains further.

“The obvious way to bracket the issues raised by Health & Safety considerations with the people who are relied upon to enact them is to provide lots of training – to simply ensure that people know what’s expected of them.  Of course that’s important and we can all agree that an element of training will always be necessary but we believe the answer goes much further than that.

“Anyone who works in Health & Safety will tell you that proactive measures are better than reactive so we’re always looking for extra ways to improve everyone’s health and safety, avoiding the need to react to a future situation.  For the first time this year, we’re also developing a structured approach to supporting mental health as well as physical health.  Not only is mental health becoming a better- understood topic in the wider world, it’s also increasingly clear that a healthier workforce demonstrably acts in a safer way.

“There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on the impact of good mental health on Behavioural Safety.  We rely on our people to make good decisions, every minute of every day and, given the hazardous nature of much of our operations, so many of those decisions can directly affect the health and safety of others.  The more we support the mental health of CSG employees, the more safely we operate.”

Today, as mental health is better understood, the issues it raises are more openly discussed in the media, with Stephen Fry and Alistair Campbell among the most prominent advocates for changing attitudes.  It’s therefore no surprise that Matt Haig’s personal account of his struggles – and his approach to confronting them – Reasons To Stay Alive, remains a bestselling book, almost three years after it was first published.  Since last year’s inaugural Health & Safety Week, all employees have been given the opportunity to receive counselling, in the strictest confidence, via a third party company – a facility that will continue to be provided in 2019.

CSG also offer opportunities to work on physical fitness (a 5-a-side football team established at our Cadishead depot is still going strong, a year on) and various work-shadowing schemes, to build understanding and engagement between different departments.  Together with the necessary training and the focus on mindfulness, it’s a comprehensive approach to ensuring that meeting Health & Safety objectives really is something in which every employee has a stake.

And yet there is one final stage that shouldn’t be overlooked – creating a culture that allows everyone to feel their perspective is important – and that has led to an effect you might find surprising.  Sarah explains:

“We have to empower our people to exercise judgement whenever they feel safety is compromised  – no-one can accurately predict every single risk and even a huge set of prescriptive rules will never lead to a safer outcome in all cases.  A fear of being blamed for stopping a process can be a disincentive to Behavioural Safety so the only way to counter that is to create and reinforce a strong ‘no-blame’ culture.”

When employees at our Cadishead plant were interviewed as part of our Investors In People accreditation, it was notable how many of them were able to give examples of safety concerns being reported and resolved.  The trend is reflected in our ‘Accidents, Incidents and Near Misses’ statistics, which show a distinct increase in reports logged.  At first glance, doesn’t this seem concerning?

“It’s actually evidence of the opposite.  It’s a sign that people are more encouraged to act positively, take ownership, rather than wait for something to get worse.  The fact that our number of RIDDOR incidents has also come down is, I believe, evidence of the shift to a more proactive footing, which is something the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is very keen to see.”

With issues of Health & Safety – and of corporate culture – the ‘task’ is never completed, it will always require careful maintenance of standards.  We will always need to keep re-defining what “safe” looks like and relying on our people to ensure that our operations never fall outside of that definition.  The engagement of our employees in expecting – and achieving – higher safety standards is yet another indication that it really is “all about the people”.

BBC: Britain’s Biggest Controversy?

– Oh, he’s not going off one one about the BBC again, is he?

Well, yes I am, I’m afraid.  Normally, I’m motivated to assault my keyboard (and your attention) by the need to defend dear old ‘Auntie’ in the face of some current slight or attack on her being.

This time, it’s slightly different.  My trigger to this particular polemic is not to decry the latest piece of perceived BBC-bashing: the Government’s insistence that all BBC employees earning over £150,000 must be listed in the interests of ‘transparency’.  Much as I love the BBC and I’m suspicious about the thinking behind this development, I happen to agree with the idea.

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It’s right of course that taxpayers can see how their c.£3.75 billion is spent each year but it’s hardly fair to infer from that that the BBC has been utterly opaque about its finances until now.  For many years, The BBC’s Annual Reports have been available to download and/or read for anyone with an internet connection and enough inclination/nosiness so to do.  This year’s version runs to 168 pages of often glossy prospectus-like self-promotion but as ever, it is required to include a high degree of financial information.

This compulsion to transparency, I imagine, is both a blessing and a curse to the BBC Trust.  For example, thanks to the report, we can find out that the Beeb spent an astonishing £45.5m on Human Resources (HR) over the last year, up from £43.1m the year before, both seemingly massive numbers.  With a total income of £4.8bn last year, this HR figure amounts to almost 1%, which seems much less significant.  Whether or not you believe this figure is still far too high is of course up to you, but either way, you’re better informed by having this information available to you – as you would be, either way, by knowing that Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkelman et al are this band or that above £150k pa (the declarations will be in bands of 50,000: £150k-£200k; £200k-£250k etc.).

As with any form of information, it’s fair to say that the information alone is not the whole picture.  There is also context.  For instance, the BBC Report shows that the World Service is currently costing licence fee payers £261m and the cost of actually collecting the licence fee come is at around £115m.  So what?  Well did you know these two areas were, until recently, not covered by the licence fee but by other parts of the Government?  Some might say that it was a rather underhand trick to suddenly burden these liabilities on the corporation without allowing any recompense.

Equally, you might take the view that these things were already being paid for by your taxes anyway so what difference does it make what part of the public purse they come under?  That’s a fair point but it’s also then rather harsh to draw too many conclusions about the Beeb’s levels of like-for-like efficiency when these two new overheads account for around 10% of the licence revenue.

There’s also a point to be made here about the fact that most of the £115 fee collection costs (which, let’s face it, are likely to be mostly comprised of pursuing dodgers) are being borne by us, those who do pay our licence.  It’s non-payers we should be directing our ire towards for this, not the BBC for being forced to include the provision in its accounts.

With effectively a £380m millstone placed around its neck, it was hardly surprising that the BBC wasn’t able to stop The Great British Bake-Off defecting to Channel 4 earlier this week.  If only the Corporation had had to spend ‘just’ £105m a year on stopping licence-dodgers, it would have been able to fund the £10m shortfall to keep one of its most popular programmes of recent years.

Or maybe not.  Perhaps it was not just the increased cost that did for the GBBO contract; it was more the fact that the increased cost would have been scrutinised because of the BBC’s ever-heightened commitment to transparency.  It can be argued that the loss of a flagship programme was therefore the right thing to happen and a sign of responsible management and cost control.  Will Channel 4 manage to maintain the quirky-yet-comfy style of the departing Mel & Sue?  Will Paul & Mary judge the new format to be too crummy for their taste?  Will the inevitably fully-laden ad breaks ruin it?  Like the contestants, we’ll have to wait to see how it turns out.

I suspect that, on balance, we’ll miss the BBC version and, in its absence, our hearts should grow fonder for the Corporation that bestowed it on us in the first place.  The same goes for the other divide-crossing crowd-pleaser The Voice.  Auntie Beeb has a proud history of conceiving and developing formats into a mind-boggling list of national treasures from Watch With Mother to Strictly Come Dancing – and far too many in between for me to reel off.  There’s no reason to believe that it isn’t capable of creating something else, just as popular – or even better.

I think Stephen Fry best stated the BBC’s value during his 2008 lecture on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting (it’s well worth watching all 43 minutes but the bit I’m quoting comes right at the end) when he makes the point that, in some other countries, there seems to be enough funding for enriching floral displays on roundabouts, posing the question “why don’t we do that?  How pleasing.”  The point is that such countries can afford to do it  because they choose to make it a priority.  He likens the BBC and its core values (to educate, inform and entertain) to a million such roundabouts and something which we as a nation can agree that we can afford – and if we don’t we may only truly discover its value when it’s too late to recover.  I’ve seldom agreed more with anything else I’ve ever heard or read.

Oh, and one more thing: if the Government’s recently-renewed thirst for transparency is to be the driving force behind another requirement of the BBC’s proberty, we taxpayers must then surely look forward to a similar, consistent, ascending commitment to demonstrating value and equal transparency when it comes to the rest of the Public Sector.

I’ve blogged before about how voters should be given the same consideration as shareholders, with all the access to structured reporting that that entails.  Thus we can eagerly await similar levels of dedication to scrutiny in the case of NHS (with a c.£100bn expenditure, a 214-page report, a lesser amount of financial information and salary information pertaining only to its Board members.) and after that, who knows: Parliament, the Armed Services, the Civil Service, the Police, the Prison Systems and, one might presume, all the privately-owned organisations that depend on Public Sector contracts for, let’s say, 50% of their revenue.

Or would it be too cynical to suspect that that won’t happen?