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The most dangerous six months of your career

August 27, 2015 at 2:56 PM

Starting a new role is an exciting prospect, and the biggest worry should be learning the ropes in your chosen career. However recent research has shown that employees are just as likely to have an accident during their first six months in a new job as they are during the rest of their working life.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released figures which demonstrate just how hazardous a new role can be, and in doing so effectively underline the importance of adequate health and safety training for all new starters in the workplace.

 Length of time in job   Reportable injuries  
  Less than 6 months  3,316
  6 to 12 months  1,023
  1 to 5 years  1,084
  Over 5 years  973

There are various reasons behind the increased risk of accidents for those new to a job, aside from the obvious factor of a lack of experience when joining a new workplace or industry.

Yet there may be hazards that a new starter simply doesn't recognise as a risk - and it is here that effective health and safety should be stepping in. A new recruit may not be familiar with either the job, the working environment, the site layout or the equipment they are expected to use, even if how to do so seems obvious.

There may also be a reluctance to ask questions or raise concerns, because they will want to impress their new managers and colleagues and avoid giving the impression that they can't cope. Therefore in their eagerness to do well, they can be vulnerable to cutting corners or ignoring warning signs.

What's more new recruits might not know who they should put questions to, especially if induction hasn't been done properly.

New starters talking to trainer in induction

New starters: Managing the risks

Although the risks are heightened, there are some straightforward yet effective precautions which can be taken to mitigate this as much as possible. For example:

• Give a thorough and well-planned induction, including a complete tour of the employee's new workplace which points out all the main hazards.

Coned area with Safe Area sign

• Make sure new starters understand who they can put their questions to, and ensure that they are adequately supervised. Stress the importance of reporting near misses and the correct procedures for accident and injuries.

• Where people are using equipment that’s new to them, provide clear access to manuals and take them through the relevant procedures for each piece of equipment - even for something like a ladder, which may seem fairly straightforward.

• Check workers have understood everything they have been told

• Provide regular health and safety refresher training throughout the year.

Health and Safety training shouldn't be a tick box exercise

Over the years I've attended many health and safety training sessions, and would be the first to admit that having it on your calendar isn't the most exciting thing to tackle first thing on a Monday morning.

However it is a vital requirement that could ultimately save the life of a team member, and so employers should ensure that the training meets these requirements in as engaging a fashion as possible.

Training should focus on the attendees as individuals and recognise their varying skill levels, experience and knowledge. What have they done before and how familiar will the working environment be? What needs to be communicated or refreshed in order to maintain a safe workplace?

Man asleep during training session

Be especially vigilant when training employees or colleagues who are potentially more vulnerable, such as young people or migrant workers. If English is not their first language, visual methods of training may be more appropriate. The HSE has published specific guidance on protecting migrant workers, which is also well worth a read if your employees fall into this category.

When an employee is taking in a lot of information, as with any new job, training has to be interactive and interesting - not just a box ticking exercise. Be clear that your message is of direct relevance. Use real-life examples, not just statistics, and lighten the information with touches of humour where appropriate.

Finally, don't preach - rather be plain, clear and honest as you bring your messages home. Remember from the start that, as with most training, you have only one chance to get it right

The statistics speak for themselves and getting an employee through the first six months of a new job unscathed should be a goal for every business (and employee!).


What is the new starter induction and H&S training like where you work? Do you have any further tips to how the training can be made more engaging?


About the author

Martyn Gilbert photoMartyn Gilbert is the Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors and has worked in the legal industry for over 18 years, developing processes and systems to assist lawyers in helping injured people.

 Martyn's last blog was winter is coming, are you and your roads ready?

Staying Safe at Summer Festivals

August 14, 2015 at 3:41 PM

Festivals can be a lot of fun, but the heady combination of alcohol, sleep deprivation and the elements can make them pretty risky too.

As well as being a solicitor I'm also a keen festival goer. Over the years I have enjoyed many festivals including Glastonbury, V and Reading as well as much smaller local festivals and during this time have seen many people fall victim to mishaps from poor safety planning. It may seem overly serious but far from stopping you having a great time, protecting yourself with a little safety planning can make for an even better time at the festival.

Festival Campsite overlooking stage

Pack for (almost) every eventuality

I have seen too many people fall foul of the 'sunglasses, wallet and watch' approach to packing for festivals.

Even if it's blisteringly hot when you set off, make sure to take some warm clothing layers. You can tie them round your waist during the day and the just put them on as the evening gets colder.

Pack some warm bedding. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag and blankets are brilliant as you can sit on them to watch the bands during the day and then wrap yourself up in them at night. Even in the height of summer it can get cold in a tent at night, which could ruin your festival experience as well as leaving your body more susceptible to illness.

Likewise, even if it's raining when you leave the house make sure you have some light clothes and sun cream packed, and always stay hydrated. Although a lot of festivals charge extortionate prices for food and drink, water should always be available for free, so keep topped up.

Falling ill with sunstroke or heat exhaustion is no joke, and no-one wants to spend their festival in the first aid tent or waking up on the local hospital and missing all the fun.

Travel insurance: not just for the Algarve

Most large festivals involve some kind of travel and an overnight stay, so you should make sure you are covered with suitable travel insurance.

Polict walking through crowds atfestival

It's a good idea to treat attending a festival just the same as if you were travelling abroad on holiday. The right insurance can cover you for travel cancellations and delays as well as loss of your personal belongings.

If you have existing or annual travel insurance then its worth checking the details of this, as there can be exclusions affecting UK travel, such as the distance from home or minimum number of nights away.

When you add up the cost of travel, tickets and personal items, attending a festival can cost the same as a week in Portugal, so insurance may be well worth the investment!

If you don't have travel insurance, check your home insurance policy. You may be covered for items away from the home, but either way it is worth checking your level of cover and any restrictions on your policy before you go.

Leave valuables at home

Generally everyone at a festival is there to have a great time, but unfortunately you may encounter some 'festival opportunists'.

The best thing to do is not to take any valuables with you and just make sure you keep the essential ones (money, mobile phone etc) safe.

Leave the fancy camera at home, take a cheap/disposable and make sure you have a secure bag to carry your stuff in while you're out and about.

Rather than taking your expensive smart phone, consider taking an old phone or a buying a cheap pay as you go from the supermarket. However always make sure you add important/emergency numbers and the numbers of all your friends attending the festival with you so you can keep in touch if you get separated.

It's virtually impossible to secure a tent. If someone wants to get in, a padlock is unlikely to stop them, but avoid leaving it unzipped as this will just entice thieves. One year at Glastonbury my brother had is jeans stolen from inside his tent whilst he was sleeping; unfortunately his wallet was still inside and ruined the rest of his festival.

Make sure you spread your valuables about. If there is a security tent, make use of it and leave your cash and any valuables in there, taking only what you need for that day.

Look after your eardrums

For many festivals, music is the most important aspect and everyone is there to enjoy it. However every time you listen to loud music you risk suffering noise induced hearing loss such as tinnitus and this is not something that anyone wants as a result of enjoying the music that they love.

Crowd in front of stage at music festival

The Action on Hearing Loss has produced guidelines on listening to loud music and how to continue to enjoy this without causing hearing loss. Here are a few of my suggestions:

• Try not to stay too long in the loudest areas of a festival, there is plenty to see so avoid staying in the dance tent all night and enjoy the other areas.

• Don't stand too close to speakers.

• Carry earplugs with you. This will not only help with the load music but will probably make it easier to get some sleep in your tent at night.

• Take care with children, their hearing is much more sensitive than adults and suitable ear protectors should be considered so that everyone can enjoy the music.

Know what you're drinking

You're probably going to drink at a festival, but make sure you're only drinking your own alcohol or that bought from official bars on site. Just like you would tell your kids not to take sweets from a stranger, taking alcohol from a stranger at a festival is just as bad.

Most people are probably just being kind by offering, but risking consuming a spiked drink just isn't worth it.

If you're driving home early on Monday morning, it's also important to keep tabs on what you're drinking the night before; and stay away from booze altogether if possible! Even if you've only had a few drinks, alcohol can stay in your system for hours, and being arrested for drink driving on the way home wouldn't make a good anecdote.

Venue health and safety

Festivals are generally held in rural locations not designed for thousands of people to eat, sleep and be merry in for several days and nights.

Event organisers go to great lengths to ensure the wellbeing of visitors by assessing conceivable risks, developing emergency procedures, cordoning certain areas off and liaising with all local services.

I've personally overseen cases where someone has been injured at a festival, and have been impressed with the level of risk assessments conducted by the site owner to minimise the chance of injury.

Yet no matter how well organised and laid out as festival may be you should always take charge of your own safety:

• Find out where fire assembly points and emergency site exits are

• Ask where first aid or emergency assistance can be obtained from

• Don't stray into cordoned off areas

• Event car parks won't usually have road or bay markings so be extra careful around them

Stay safe and enjoy

There are over 400 music festivals in the UK every year with the largest attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees in just a few days.

With the variety and sheer scale of these festivals I'm surprised we don’t see news reports all summer long about accidents and people being injured. But thankfully the precautions put in place by organisers and the common sense of festival goers work together to keep this figure low. Let's keep it that way!

Do you have any festival going tips that I've missed? Let me know in the comments.


About the author

Amy Smitheringale PhotoAmy Smitheringale is a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor with more than 16 years experience in civil litigation. Amy is the manager of a team of litigators at Spencers Solicitors who deal with a wide variety of personal injury claims including accidents in public.

Amy's last blog was Welcoming London's first Motorcycle Safety Action Plan.

Doughnut Day for MacMillan Cancer Support

July 23, 2015 at 2:36 PM

As part of a fundraising campaign to help MacMillan Cancer Support raise funds for their Chesterfield based Cancer Centre, Spencers Solicitors held a 'Doughnut Day' on the 10th of July 2015 followed by a sponsored walk on the 11th of July 2015 whereby staff signed up to walk off their doughnut indulgence for a minimum of 2.5 hours, representative of the £2.5 million Macmillan need to raise.

Doughnut day was a great success with eight dozen doughnuts and a dozen fabulous home baked doughnut cup cakes sold to raise money. Employees, friends, family and pets then turned out for a sponsored walk around Linacre Reservoirs and the surrounding areas bright and early the following day.

A dozen luxurious homemade doughnut cupcakes Katie and Oscar the dog catch their breath on the sponsored walk

Photo of walkers

Kelly Pashley-Handford HR Manager at Spencers Solicitors said:

Kelly Pashley-Handford Photo

"This two phase fundraising event was a great success thanks to generous donations and the remarkable support of all staff involved. We raised a grand total of £750. Grateful thanks go to: Lisa Morris who coordinated both events; Elisabeth Piroddi who baked fantastic doughnut cupcakes and; everyone who took part and pledged sponsorship for such an inspiring local facility."


See our Pinterest board for more photos from the day and please visit www.macmillan.org.uk to donate to the Chesterfield Royal Macmillan Cancer Centre.

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