Displaying items by tag: Hastam

Monday, 22 August 2016 09:30

Goldfish, Butterflies and Starfish

Paul Mahoney wrote this blog as a response to when he attended the IOSH North West Tri Branch conference in Widnes at the beginning of June.

Before you start reading this blog, NO, it is not an early Christmas cracker joke. It relates to slides in my presentations inspiring other to work in a healthier and safer manner.

So, starting with the fish, what does that relate to concerning H&S? It relates to peoples working environments. There is a West African proverb that states, ‘Fish are the last to recognise water’ It is true the fish is the last to recognise that it is swimming in water. It is not until you hook the fish out onto the riverbank that it realises that it lived in water.

Now take people at work, they are the last to recognise the working environment they work in every day. This because over time things that once were considered dangerous or unhealthy merge into the background and disappear from sight.

This loss of environmental awareness now leads on to the loss of fear. In his book VALUE-BASED SAFETY PROCESS – Improving Your Safety Culture With Behaviour-Based Safety. Terry McSween states ‘Complacency refers to the loss of the fear of injury that typically motivates employees to work safely.’


Now say that exact quote to a person who has worked on the shop floor for 25 years without injury or a near miss. What would be the normal response? It would be probably be a roll of the eyes and the internal voice saying not this again.

What about if I now rephrase that quote into this question ‘When did you lose the butterflies at work?’ So, what would the response be now? First, you would get a look that says sorry, but are you MAD*? Moreover, yes, they are right, but it is said to *Make A Difference to a healthier, safer culture. Especially, if it gets the person thinking differently about the job they do.

We all more or less remember our first day at work, especially if it involved being trained around machinery. You had a tight ball in your chest, you was not sure where to stand to operate the machinery or the button/s to press to operate it. Now, fast forward to now, the question has to be when did lose that tight ball in your chest? I am going to guess you cannot remember.

When we were kids and we had that tight ball in our chests, our parents would say more often or not that we had butterflies. Over time we grow up and we just call it ‘being nervous’. That nervous feeling actually keeps us alive; it keeps us on our toes, as we are stay aware of our surroundings. As time ticks by that nervous, feeling disappears, just like letting butterflies out of a jar.


The final animal is starfish. Anybody who has listened to my presentation would of heard me use a story concerning starfish washed up onto a beach. If you haven’t heard the story. I use an adapted story like the one below.

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.

Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,” I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along

the coast.

You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied

“Made a difference to that one”

The Starfish Story Project 

Health and Safety should not be hard to put into place; it helps actually makes good organisations great because it is where people want to work.

Sometimes as the people who make that difference to people’s lives at work, as we put in place the health and safety regulations, we need to take a step back and think out the box, to get that little bit more buy in from the people we are affecting in their work environments. We have to be a little crazy sometimes.

Talking of crazy, how many people thought that Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons were insane showing a video to an audience and asking them to count the passes?

Now, how many Health and Safety professionals show the video to see if their delegates spot the…


If it means looking at Health and Safety through the eyes of a child to get that, buy in or take us back to our childhoods, then so let it be. Every little step helps improve a safer working culture. It is normally the little things in life, which has the biggest impacts on that life.



From <http://www.hastam.co.uk/iosh-north-west-tri-branch-conference-inspired-blog/

Published in Blog

What People Say

  • Paul's speech gave true insight into the impact of an accident rather than just a dramatized video about just what happened at the time of it.

    W. Evans

    C.Spencers Group

  • Paul was an important part of this course. As it happened to him and not somebody in a DVD. It really brought it home accidents do happen to real people and not an actor.

    W. Harron

    SITA Doncaster

  • Paul's presentation of his experiences was very moving, and inspirational. I believe him being here to talk through and being able to ask questions first hand was great.


    C.Spencers Group

Paul Mahoney

Paul Mahoney

For a Safer World Tomorrow


Phone: 07715297606