In the Autumn issue of Staff News we focused on how health and safety is everyone’s business. This time we highlight the role that staff in the health and safety department play in helping us care about ourselves and others in the organisation.
TOM GORMAN –Health and Safety Advisor
Although he joined NHS Forth Valley just a few months ago from Police Scotland, Tom Gorman is no stranger to the NHS. Before joining the Police Service in 2004 as a Health and Safety Advisor, he had previously worked within the NHS for 12 years, as a Biomedical Scientist at Monklands Hospital and as a Health and Safety Advisor within NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
He describes his return to the NHS as ‘unfinished business’ and is enthusiastically introducing himself to staff working throughout the organisation, believing that ‘buy-in’ from everyone is crucial to success.
Tom is one of three Health and Safety Advisors within NHS Forth Valley and describes his role as being exceptionally varied with no two days being the same. “In the space of a few days I could be in the office writing policies and procedures, or out and about undertaking adverse event investigations, participating in health and safety committees, providing training or discussing health, safety and welfare issues with managers or staff. It’s speaking to people face to face that I find most satisfying.”
Managing health and safety he admits, is never going to be ‘sexy’ as people tend to look at the negatives rather than the positives, in many cases believing it a hindrance. “The negative attitude towards health and safety is also not helped by the public’s perception of ‘Elf & Safety’ as something that bans school ties, or makes concert goers wear ear plugs. These are usually decisions made in the name of health and safety with no basis and are disproportionate or widely inaccurate.”
Tom argues that if health and safety is managed properly it makes good business sense, helps with attendance management and saves money. “If staff are off work due to failures in good practice, there could be additional costs in recruiting staff to cover, plus the time managers have to spend investigating an incident. Tom refers to the winning phrase in a recent health and safety staff competition ‘being safety aware shows you care’ which he describes as saying it all. He believes good health and safety procedures together with training boost the morale of staff who look at their organisation and say ‘yes, they actually care about us.’
He admits that Health & Safety Advisors can sometimes be labelled boring and unapproachable but says this is not the case with himself and his colleagues who enjoy varied hobbies, ranging from coaching local football/rugby clubs, playing cribbage, model building and cycling.
Anyone needing help with health and safety in the workplace can contact any of the Advisors for a chat on 01786 434434
Karen Eadie – Manual Handling Trainer
The term manual handling may sound dull and boring. But attend a training session with Karen Eadie and Helen Dolby, and you’re guaranteed a fun time. Their mantra is #Stick Your Bum Out, as they put staff members and students through their paces, showing them how to adopt a stable but mobile base to avoid hurting themselves through stretching and twisting limbs and their spine.“We want people to stick their bum out” says Karen, so they can get down to pick things up without craning over or bending their knees too far. We’re trying to get people out of the way of planting their feet firmly on the ground and twisting when moving things.
“We’re all going to be working into our late sixties in future and if you have back injuries now, the effects of musculoskeletal conditions in later years could be horrendous. We are also training a lot of student nurses and a back injury could mean having to change their career path.”
Three or four manual handling courses take place every week and team members are currently touring hospitals training staff to use a piece of kit which makes life so much easier when helping patients who have fallen. Called a Hover Matt or Hover Jack, this air lift transfer system slides underneath a patient on the floor and is inflated by a pump, rather like a lilo. When it reaches a certain height the patient can then be gently put back into bed.
It was Karen’s involvement with manual handling which prompted her to become a trainer. She previously worked in oncology as a chemotherapy support worker but was a key worker in manual handling. She explained: “I have always been interested in the legalities of what we do and, although I miss the patient contact, I love this job. It’s good to get the grey matter going and good to put the fun aspect into manual handling.
“We also do community training especially for patients who have been in hospital for a long time and need a stand and hoist for when they go home. We teach carers how to use these safely, either in the home or sometimes before a patient leaves the ward.”
Perhaps one of their biggest challenges is trying to get staff to forget about some of the manoeuvres which they were taught years ago but are now ‘condemned.’ These include lifting someone under the arms or by the ‘top and tail’ method. “It’s no longer about climbing over beds” said Karen. “It’s about learning new skills and the satisfaction when someone leaves saying I will remember what I have learned and now have a totally different outlook.”