What can we learn from a 100-year-old charitable organisation whose mission it is to prevent harm to people through accidents? Plenty.


Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way.  Welcome to you, you’re in the right place.  If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.


The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents traces it’s history back to a meeting in London, in 1916, the attendees of which resolved to create a Councilto tackle ” the alarming increase in traffic accidents, and the direct connection therewith of the restricted street lighting which had been necessitated by the War conditions”.  Various names have been part of RoSPA’s identity, including the ‘Safety First’ Council and the Road Fellowship League.  In 1933 a collaborative campaign with government was hatched for the very first time, including funding from the Ministry of Transport.  Road safety cigarette cards were part of this, the irony of which is only matched by how logical that was likely to be for the time.  The 1930’s also saw a broadened focus into safer footwear, home safety, and general work safety.  This history of adaptation, collaboration, and unwavering focus on the goal, seems to be the backbone of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.


My guest today is Dr. Karen McDonnell, the Head of RoSPA Scotland and the organisations Occupational Health and Safety Policy Advisor.
Let’s meet Karen:


You might be forgiven for thinking that an organisation as old as RoSPA would be staid, calcified, old, irrelevant.  It seems to me that to last for 100 years, RoSPA’s success has been quite the opposite: adaptive, open, collaborative, explorative – a learning organisation.
Takeaway #1: A common, and maybe crude distinction, is often made between strategic, and operational.  It will be helpful enough for us now.  Just think for a minute, when you were listening to Karen talk about RoSPA, how strategic, or how operational was the conversation? Reflecting on lessons from 100 years of work, clear focus areas, a balanced approach to these, a broadening of focus from just safety, to improving work.  Putting health into the spotlight.  These sound far more strategic than operational to me. It made me reflect, how often are we operationally focussed, which is fine, and important, but without the strategy? How clear are we about how all the pieces of the puzzle fit? Is there an opportunity, for a leader at any level, to be clearer and more compelling about the strategy, so our operational activity makes sense to us and others?


Takeaway #2: There are lots of players in the health and safety space.  Government, Regulators, business groups, labour unions, charities, professional associations, industry committees, and these are just a few potential categories.  If you tried to create a picture, to represent who these are, and work out the relationships, similarities, and differences, especially across borders, it would be pretty messy.  That doesn’t stop RoSPA from trying, and not doing too bad a job, at least in the Scottish context you heard Karen and I discuss.  What this reinforces for me, is that the situation is complex, and the extent to which we improve how we interrelate, is the extent to which we remove waste from the system and make greater impact.  I encourage you to think beyond just your organisation, and think how can you connect with other groups, how can you contribute to their success, and how can we all get better, together?



Takeaway #3: We wrapped up on the role of health and safety practitioners.  Karen’s encouragement was to influence strategic workforce planning, enabling intergenerational working and mentoring, and to explore workforce health holistically, including things like co-morbidities.  Remember, as Karen said, humans are whole people, not different parts at work, and the rest of their non-work life.
Reach out to Karen if you have something to offer with the work RoSPA are doing on absence from work as a result of incidents which happened away from work, get in touch with Karen, on Linkedin or drop her an email, kmcdonnell@rospa.com


Thanks so much for listening.  Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!