This year's Safety and Health Expo at London's Excel brought a true "What the Four-Letter-Word" moment for me.
Chris Edwards, the Show's Director had pulled me aside on the morning of Day 2, to chat about the "running order". Knowing I was presenting in the Soapbox Challenge in the afternoon, I assumed that's what we were to be chatting about.
It turned out to be more about what was to happen prior to the Soapbox Challenge.
He explained he was going to make an announcement about the winner of the vote for Safety and Health Practitioner's "Most Influential Person in Health and Safety 2018" immediately before it.
Oh that's perfect I'm thinking, as I was eager to hear who was going to follow in Safety Differently John Green's footsteps.
"...and I'm going to be announcing that the winner is you..."
"What the $@%#?!"
I looked skyward and the tears fell. And wouldn't stop falling. Then through my remonstrations that it couldn't be me, I set Chris off too. And coffee was offered and gratefully received. Though, if truth be told, I might have preferred a Jack Daniels.
He was kidding, surely. I mean, of the people on the longlist for votes, I was the one about whom people would be saying "Who??"
But when he came back with hot beverages, he reassured me it was absolutely true, I was the winner, and that I'd been a "long way out in front" when the votes had been counted.
On being left to gather my thoughts, I phoned my mum and dad. My mum answered and squealed in shocked delight at the news I was imparting through my own stunned tears. Then through the one she was brewing she said to my youngest: "Your mummy's very clever Connor". He replied "Why, what's she done?"
Indeed. What. Had. I. Done?
And now...What more can I do?!
Because having had time to let the news sink in, this is where my mind has now turned.
I've been sent the comments that accompanied the votes. One of them ends with the words: "She needs support to keep doing what she is doing and this award would be part of that."
I'm viewing the award and the comments submitted as my fuel for the year ahead.
And I've currently got 5 key ways I'd like to continue to have my brother have an influence in the year ahead.
1. Electrical Industry concerns addressed
When I speak about Michael's death, I speak about certain failures which were industry-wide, where the electrical contracting industry as a whole was failing the people who worked within it.
My concerns about the industry remain all too real. Sparks contact me regularly with their concerns about de-skilling within the industry, that work is being carried out by those who do not have the qualifications or competence it requires.
A serious amount of work to be done here!
2. Corporate Homicide laws revisited
We're now 10 years on from the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 having taken effect.
Based on the regulatory impact assessment produced prior to the Act coming into force, we should have expected between 14 and 21 prosecutions under the Act in Scotland. In actual fact, not one potential corporate homicide has even reached the threshold for proceedings to be issued. This has undermined the confidence in the legislation within trade unions, safety campaigning organisations and, crucially the families of victims of those killed at work who are denied justice.
I would like to be able to contribute to bringing about a review of this legislation in the year ahead.
3. International Workers' Memorial Day awareness raised
If I asked you what date in the safety calendar is marked on 28 April annually, would your reply be "World Day for Safety and Health at Work"?
I know that it would for very many.
But, if it is, then by the time I ask you the question again, I want your first response to be "International Workers' Memorial Day".
As the Founder of Australian support group "Voice of Industrial Death" wrote to their safety regulator earlier this year:
"You have at your disposal 364 other days to promote any specific safety message you like and we would wholeheartedly support any such endeavour to make workplaces safer. However, April 28 is not the date for that mission; April 28 is our day."
I hope to help further advance this position in the UK ahead of 28 April 2019, when I'll be speaking at the largest IWMD event in the country, held in Manchester.
4. The Whole Story told by more people
How many people died because of work last year in the UK? If you quote the HSE fatality statistic, then you'll be saying 144 workers died at work in 2017/18.
When I told The Whole Story during the SHExpo Soapbox Challenge, the latest figures hadn't been released, so I began by talking of the 137 deaths the HSE had reported the previous year.
But, I ended with the full annual statistics:
- 1500 loved ones who died in work-related incidents; and
- 50,000 loved ones who die as a result of work-related illness.
Watch the video to understand how these totals are arrived at. And join with me in committing to telling The Whole Story, so that in future we do write an altogether more uplifting story.
5. Hazards Centres' work recognised and bolstered
Prevention of further loss of life is key to why I tell my wee brother's story. And the work carried out by Hazards Centres throughout the country is vitally important in ensuring workers can access preventative advice, support and training.
I helped set up the Scottish Hazards Centre. There are also well established Centres in Manchester and London. All currently survive on a shoestring budget.
Within the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, support is also provided via FACK to bereaved families. FACK co-ordinator Hilda Palmer is always careful to tell families who’ve lost loved ones that they will not get the justice they need, want or deserve, but that she will help them get as much justice as possible, providing support, assistance and advocacy to families as they go through the investigation, inquest and prosecution processes, and campaigning to ensure lessons are learned and future deaths are prevented.
All of this work needs greater recognition and bolstering in order to ensure prevention is prioritised.
Using my voice for the voiceless
I read a couple of quotes recently that sum up what I want to do on the back of having received this award. They said:
- “The purpose of influence is to 'speak up for those who have no influence.' It's not about you."
- "Whenever you have the courage to use your voice for the voiceless, please remember even if your voice shakes, other people are going to find healing in your scars, in your hurts and in your stories. Your greatest life messages often come from your deepest wounds and they will have the most powerful impact on another life. Never be afraid to stand up and use your voice."
I will speak for those who no longer have a voice in order that they have the loudest influence.
Louise is a popular health and safety workplace speaker who, through telling her brother Michael's story, helps organisations reinforce their safety message. To find out more, view this short video. And should there be anything you want to see Louise add to her list, please drop her a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.