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.
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The Opposite Veiw
Have you ever stood somewhere to carry out a task struggling to work out how to get that nut on, and then suddenly someone comes along and puts it on for you with ease, and you’re then standing there feeling a little silly, wondering how they did it?
With a smile on their face they tell you that they are left-handed and it was easy as they explain how to reach in and put it on.
Having been left-handed for 27 years, until I had a disagreement with a screw conveyor. I always had to take the opposite view on how to fix machines. It was natural to use both hands to carry out tasks around machines, I say that even though, since my incident I suffer from a condition called Retro Amnesia, I can’t remember being left-handed, there are some things that I carry out today that make me lean towards my left hand side, especially around sport.
2 years into talking to organisations around the country about that fateful day, it is or isn’t so, surprising that organisations still don’t recognise the importance that people see the world in different angles or views. And then carry those tasks out in a similar fashion, with Safety Advisors scratching their heads, with why would you want to stand there or get in there to carry out that task.
On average 10-12% of the workforce will be left-handed(1), a small amount, but a big enough amount that can cause issues when trying to understand why would someone would want to get in a position that would cause them harm.
The organisations that I have visited very rarely consider writing risk assessments or safe work procedures that factor in the left-handed operator, or engineer. This doesn’t mean that organisations need to rush out and write a whole lot of new risk assessments or procedures, but it will mean that an extra little time will be needed to think outside to box in how that left-handed employee will see that task and the hazards that they face that are not always seen.
That day when I had a simple task to clear that screw was complicated because to clear the screw I had to turn my back away from my shift mate to put my left arm in the screw, where a right handed employee would have kept their eyes on the same shift mate, as to put your right arm in meant turning their body towards the shift mate.
It would be interesting to see whether the left-handed employee appears more in accident books as research may suggest(2) that the left handed employee has less spatial awareness. It’s not all bad news employing that left-handed employee, according to Mensa(3) that 20% of its members are left-handed, so get them in that research and design department, to sort out that issue on the floor or new machinery.
In a recent survey from Lefthandersdat.com(4) left handed employees would prefer to be in your IT or Marketing Departments.
Finally, looking at the HSE stats(5) around 600 people a year suffer from an amputation of some kind (Finger/s or toe/s to full arm/s or leg/s) how many are above average to left handers is hard to say. One good thing that it is find left handed stroke victims(6) recover faster than right handers, it may be said that it could be said that amputees may recover faster as well. My own experience would say yes I did recover faster, as the world is set up for the right hander, so adjusting to a new life on the opposite side, was like a duck taking to water.
There are many theories into why incidents/accidents happen and how can we prevent them. Speaking from experience, yes, incidents/accidents have been falling because of better legal standings and machines are more reliable, but reading a book by Gary Klein Seeing What Others Don't (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seeing-What-Others-Dont-Remarkable-ebook/dp/B00BKRVU0G) . It has helped me understand why possibly we are missing things and incidents/accidents are still happening.
When I travel the country and talk to people from many organisations at any level, a lot of reaction is great, but their are some who scratch their heads wanting to know why would you stick your arm in a screw conveyor? Their insight is that it is dangerous and your a fool, but when you are in the zone needing to get something done, logic sometimes goes out the window, and we do things that in the cold light of day wouldn't do.
The people who question me, are right, I was a fool, but I show them this clip from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-14bkh18G1Y (6.30) of John Noaks climbing Nelson Column. I ask them would they do it? Many so no first of all, but once you start writing a cheque for at least 5 figures, minds start to wander off the NO WAY to hmmm I'll think about it.
We can all be quick to judge someones decision in doing something stupid to yourself, but it's not until we see the other person's insight do we truly understand why they did what they did.
TAKE CARE OUT THERE!