You want the people working for you, or working with you, to go home safe to their loved ones at the end of each and every working day. So you're in absolutely the right place. Because that's what I want to help you achieve, through sharing my wee brother Michael's story about safety at work.
You see, if his employer had cared as much as you do, I don't think you would be here reading this, because he wouldn't have died and I wouldn't now need to refer to myself as a workplace safety speaker. Instead, I'd still just be a big sister.
Michael was was an experienced spark, and he died on 4 August 2005 as the result of an electrical incident. He was only 26 years old and was engaged to be married. In short, his death could and should have been prevented.
So, I'll admit to being on a bit of a mission: to reduce the number of people who die or are injured in preventable workplace incidents. Not singlehandedly. Working together with you.
You don't want any other parents to have to plan their child's funeral. You don't want friends to have to plan annual memorial events. You don't want any other fiancée to go from choosing wedding cars, to sitting in funeral cars.
My hope is that through telling Michael's Story to your people, it will prevent anyone else from losing a life or a loved one.
And it was humbling to have work done to date recognised by being voted SHP's Most Influential Person in Health and Safety 2018.
What lessons can you learn from Michael's Story?
A series of errors in health and safety management - any one of which would have been serious enough on its own – accumulated to result in my wee brother's death. These included:
- Failure to implement safe systems of work, in particular, safe electrical isolation procedures;
- Failure to provide safety equipment referred to in the employer’s own method statement;
- Failure to document changes to plans and to ensure testing procedures were carried out;
- Failure to ensure risk assessments were kept updated; and
- Failure to ensure the effective management and supervision of health and safety.
Michael's employer was found guilty of health and safety offences and fined £300,000. However, this provides little in the way of justice and nothing in the way of comfort for our family. My hope is that by telling his story, it helps ensure a lasting and positive legacy from his untimely, unnecessary and entirely preventable death.
Who was Michael Adamson?
"A big bundle of fun & the most genuine of guys you could ever meet. He will always be remembered as the guy that bounced in and out of peoples' homes, workplaces and wherever he was, with a cheeky smile, his usual banter and without a care in the world. He was the best friend anyone could hope for - kind, considerate and thought of everyone else before himself, and he was simply my best buddy."
Those were the words of his best friend, delivering his eulogy at his funeral. Michael was a son, brother and fiancé who did not live to get the opportunity to become an uncle, a husband, or a dad, all of which he would have been utterly brilliant as.
He was a keen golfer, a Hearts fan, and the best of laughs (well, he'd have to be, what with being a Jambo and all) . He could be a bit of a feartie growing up. Ask me about the rollercoaster incident! But he had grown to be the one you knew you could rely on in times of crisis.
His legacy deserves to live long.
Who is Louise Taggart?
Michael's death led me into the field of health and safety. It also cured me of my fear of public speaking, though in a manner I don't recommend as it was speaking to hundreds at his funeral that meant I'd never be scared of speaking to an "audience" ever again.
Before embarking on this journey of becoming a workplace safety speaker, I spent 13 years working as an employment lawyer for a top Scottish firm. I wasn't a "normal" lawyer (Is any lawyer "normal" we hear you ask ). In my case, the abnormality was my role as a Professional Support Lawyer. I kept track of legislative and case-law developments, translating them into easily digestible updates for clients. I prepared and delivered training on many topics, including equality and diversity; prevention of harassment; disciplinary and grievance processes and absence management. And my role also involved the scripting of Mock Employment Tribunals, the most popular event in the firm's annual event calendar.
I now use the skills I learned in my time as a lawyer, applying them in the health and safety field, and seeking to ensure others are able to head home safe to their loved ones at the end of each and every working day or night.
At the end of my working days or nights, I return home to my husband and two boys. I enjoy getting to a drop-in class at the gym and to the highly enjoyable hour and a half of the week that is kicking a ball about at a women's football fitness class. Now in my forties, I'd like to say I haven't lost it. But truth is, I didn't ever have it in the first place.
Why tell Michael's Story?
The Health and Safety Executive's press release issued after conclusion of the trial of Michael's employer stated:
"Michael Adamson's death could have been prevented had his employer ensured that safe working practices were being carried out in accordance with the company's own written procedures. Managers and supervisors in this industry must take active steps to ensure that their electricians work safely".
Put simply: I don't want any other family to have to hear something like this and so now devote my time to telling his story throughout the UK and beyond.