RSMA Health and Safety: Making common sense common practice


Changing the behaviour of both people within the sector and road users is the key to improving health and safety on the highways network, industry bosses have been told.

Human behaviour was a theme that ran through the Highways Health and Safety 2016 conference, for which Surveyor Transport Network was the media partner.


George Lee, chief executive of the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA), which put on the event, told delegates that, despite regulation and the industry’s efforts to improve safety, the road user was a ‘random variable’, who was ‘only as regulated as they allow themselves to be’.

Highways England programme lead Stewart Evans agreed. He said: ‘Driver behaviour and human error remain the most likely cause of incidents on our road network today and as the steward of the network we are reliant on compliant drivers.'

Mr Evans told delegates: ‘Semi-autonomous vehicles will remove some of that risk but people still need to drive with the appropriate level of responsibility.’

John Caboche, inspector, highways and construction with the Health and Safety Executive told delegates that risk assessments were often window dressing used to justify a decision that had already been made.

He said he had become used to being lied to during his investigations into serious incidents but, ‘one of the things that never lies is the rules of physics’.

Mr Caboche said what he was really interested in was why people lie and he had concluded that it was mainly because people wanted to go home early.

Andrew Sharp, Area 12 programme delivery manager with A-one+ Integrated Highways Services described the company’s training scheme to make lorry drivers more aware of the presence of and issues around impact protection vehicles (IPV).  

Paul Aldridge, managing director of WJ South, gave a case study of best practice in workforce engagement. He told delegates: ‘Above all, the single most important factor is our culture and working practices.’

Psychologist and behavioural change catalyst Dr Damian Hughes told delegates of the need to engage the human brain, rather than the more primitive side of cognition, which he dubbed the 'monkey brain', to make common sense, common practice.

In training first developed for Kier, delegates were asked to perform the challenging role of jurors in a mock trial.

Not wishing to allow for much ambiguity,  the lorry driver in the mock case had failed to carry out appropriate vehicle safety checks resulting in him crushing to death his banksman – also his brother-in-law – while talking on the phone to his wife.

Unsurprisingly there was a near unanimous guilty verdict, indicating that the message had got through.

Judge John Lawrence – a real life magistrate – passed a four-year sentence before bringing delegates back to the real world with a summary of relevant changes to sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences.

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