H&S practitioner David Cant recently chaired the FIS COVID-19 Health and Safety Task Group. He shares some of its conclusions.

It has been a great experience to chair the FIS COVID-19 H&S Task Group. The sense of community has been inspiring and the outputs have put the sector in the best possible shape to confront the issues that this pandemic has thrown at us.

So much so, at the latest meeting of the group, it was agreed that it was time to switch focus away from developing and refining tools and look at the obstacles to following the proposed recommended FIS Four Step Protocol, giving particular consideration to the cultural issues that may undermine safe working.

The simple fact is this: However well we write our RAMS, some individuals are blasé to transmission and become blind to information and signage on Covid-19 policy. In our discussion, it was reinforced that daily activity briefings (DAB’s) help, but even these can be deemed repetitive and routine to the point at which people stop listening. To deal with this challenge we need to look at leadership and supervision to focus on how we can address cultural concerns.

Easy as ABC
When looking to improve a safety culture, it is useful to start with a simple Antecedents (Activators), Behaviours and Consequences (ABC) analysis.
This means looking in detail at:
Activators – Anything that prompts people to act e.g. clarity of instruction, signage, other physical reminders such as enhanced PPE are all simple activators.
Behaviour – The observable action(s) taken by people, what we say, what we do.
Consequences – What happens to the person as a result of the behaviour.

Effective leadership requires clear instruction and controlled supervision.

Behaviour is what people do and attitude is what people think. If behaviour can be influenced by defined activators that will assist in predicting consequences of individual behaviour, then what can be done to change individual attitudes? Attitude is internal and can be influenced, but is difficult to measure, whereas behaviour is external and can be observed.

To alter behaviour an employer needs to focus on the activators and consequences, that is to ensure effective activators are in place and that proportionate and efficient consequences are enforced. Activators start behaviour, consequences maintain the behaviour.

Activators without consequences don’t tend to work, simply asking nicely is unlikely to influence behaviour in isolation, whatever it is, there needs to be consequences – we do what we do because of what happens when we do it.

Rewards can be positive and align with the need to keep colleagues safe and the site operating effectively, but it may also be necessary to consider sanctions. The key thing is to start with the right questions:
• What is the critical behaviour?
• What will happen when I do this thing?
• Is there a process to measure that it gets done?
• Will someone notice? Will the consequence be positive?
Remember, this is like all forms of leadership – results are more powerful if done with people instead of to them.

Options to encourage compliance
Ask the operatives why they struggle to comply then ask what will help them to comply with the Covid-19 measures. Also ask how they can help remind colleagues to keep to the rules – we do not want to create conflict situations if it can be avoided. No matter how small it may seem, involving the operatives in the identification of
the activators includes them in the decision.

Current on-site examples
Here are some ideas FIS has received from the Covid-19 Health and Safety Task Group:
• Make the invisible visible by displaying small virus stickers on handles of entranceways, doors, stair banisters and junctions to promote hand cleaning.
• Hand cleaning stations in front of pedestrian traffic, to give more opportunities to clean hands and so people have got to move to get around them.
• Photographs showing people social distancing, and cleaning hands.
• Use of Covid-19 ambassadors setting a good example (lead by example) and reinforcing good behaviour as soon as they see it.
• Site management talking to contractors and recording where poor behaviour could be improved with a league table that shows organisational compliance.
• Plants, move groups or bubbles of operatives who follow compliance rules on site to sites were poor behaviour is prevalent.

Remember the single most effective tool a site manager has for improving worker performance and morale is consequences because they are always occurring and
impacting their behaviour.

Covering and shielding the face: Things to be aware of
Rebecca Crosland, Health & Safety Advisor at BESA (Building Engineering Services Association), has issued some timely advice regarding PPE for the face.
“Face coverings and full-face shields (visors) may lower viral exhalation risk, notably from anyone who has COVID-19 but is not yet showing symptoms.
However, they do not provide significant inhalation protection and they may become contaminated,” she said.

“If selected, there should be collective use where possible (ie maximising the number in a ‘close proximity’ group who wear a face covering or visor). Eye protection can help to protect the eyes from airborne droplets, but visors may negate the need for light eye protection (subject to risk assessment).

“Certain ‘valved’ face masks present a potential viral exhalation risk, which may for example be mitigated by wearing a visor. Any face coverings or visors should
be distributed by the employer, along with instructions for use, maintenance, replacement, and disposal. ‘Homemade’ or ‘site improvised’ face coverings or visors
should not be used.”

Key resources developed:
FIS COVID-19 Four Step Protocol
FIS Standard COVID-19 Risk Assessment
FIS Task Assessment Tool
FIS COVID-19 Guide to the Selection of Personal and Respiratory Protective Equipment
These tools and more are still available in the FIS COVID-19 H&S Toolkit.