This is mine; the reason why I do what I do, which has influenced how I do what I do.
Shortly after becoming involved in health and safety – and to be honest, before really being sure it was for me – I turned on the television one evening and quite by chance, a Panorama-type documentary was starting. It was about the state of health and safety in the UK and it centred on an accident that happened not far from where I now sit in Lancashire. A worker was dragged into a plastic crumbing machine and killed.
The machine, not unlike a large food processor, had an aperture at the top through which waste plastic could be fed, and a giant blade at the bottom rotating at high speed. A factory inspector had been horrified to find that the interlock guard on the lid had been overridden enabling more plastic to be fed into the machine more quickly. The inspector issued a health and safety enforcement notice, prohibiting use of the machine. The bosses ignored the notice and the inevitable happened. George Kenyon was 25 years old when he died and much was made of how little of him there was left for his family to bury.
It was exploitation, pure and simple. A staggering lack of consideration for the value of human life.
It was 1988 and health and safety was very much in the public consciousness but for altogether different reasons than it is today. In the 1980’s, high-profile accidents involving many fatalities and serious injuries were common – Piper Alpha, The Herald of Free Enterprise, Kings Cross fire, Bradford City stadium fire, Clapham Junction rail crash, Hillsbrough – and the public were concerned; their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, were not coming home and nobody seemed to be accountable. Such dramatic cases are rare, but still someone is killed at work almost every working day in this country and many more lives are changed forever.
George Kenyon’s story is central to why I’m an OSH Practitioner; it seemed like a noble cause then and it still does now. And I think it’s the reason why I grabbed at coaching skills with both hands when I first discovered what real coaching was all about. In coaching, relationships matter and conversations matter and, in a world of data junkies where everything seems to be reduced to one KPI or another, that’s a breath of fresh air indeed.
What is your why?