Finishing 1st academic term in London on a high

A real plus to my part-time lecturing role in Middlesex University is that I get to work alongside Maeve O’Loughlin, senior lecturer there, whom I first met back in July at the launch of Art of Work’s London office. Maeve was at the other end of the table from me that night, yet I couldn’t help but be drawn to her conversation as it was so on point and damn interesting. Her enthusiasm, energy and knowledge in the whole area of what she coins as enabling safety (often referred to as Safety Differently, New View Safety or Safety II) is infectious, in a very positive & encouraging way. We ended up chatting afterwards for almost an hour on the street, both of us brimming with ideas on how to go about work from the enabling safety perspective, drawing on our experience & past learnings. That was the start of our journey together as friends and as it now transpires, colleagues.

Another plus of lecturing in Middlesex University this past few months is that it has afforded me the opportunity to attend some Health & Safety events in London, many of which I have found to be really interesting. In the past month I have attended several events and as a result have met many interesting health & safety folk, you can find read about some of the highlights of these events in separate blogs, here I am focusing on Wednesday December 13th.

Seeing Sidney Dekker, John Green, Kelvin Genn and Helen Rawlinson of Art of Work all gathered in Middlesex University’s Hendon campus to deliver a masterclass relevant to the Safety Differently approach was one of the highlights of my time here in London. How often do you get to see these thought-leaders on safety gathered in the one place? Add Maeve O’Loughlin into the mix and it doesn’t get much better than that… Hugs & warm greetings were exchanged as I reconnected with Sidney, whom I haven’t spoken to since our week-long Masterclass in Kasteel de Haar (Netherlands) back in 2015, and we had a nice chat as we strolled across campus for lunch. As a fan of audio books, you can imagine my delight when Sidney informed me that his book ‘The End of Heaven: Disaster and Suffering in a Scientific Age’ was launched on Audible only the day before. I bought the book when it was released earlier in the year, and absolutely loved it. You don’t have to be into safety to read this book, it is about our constant quest and search for meaning in relation to suffering. He also informed me that his latest book ‘The Safety Anarchist: Relying on human expertise and innovation, reducing bureaucracy and compliance’ will be released in the near future also. Its release can’t come quick enough for me! 

It was lovely to reconnect with John & Helen also, whom Upstream co-hosted an event with recently in Dublin. We chatted about future conferences we’re currently working on logistically, and as always, it was an absolute pleasure reconnecting with these guys…

To meet with Kelvin Genn for the first time was an unexpected and lovely surprise. We had a most enjoyable conversation over lunch and what cropped up was the need for us to listen more to find out what is working and not working within our organisations by evaluating normal work, not just the outcomes such as safety issues and incidents. This is a theme strung across many conversations I have had this past while… I look forward to crossing paths with Kelvin again, be that in Australia or in Ireland. Hospitality was extended for his hoped-for trip to the Emerald Isle, when I mentioned that I live in a remote and quite part of Ireland in a small traditional cottage with half door, a couple of donkeys and grass in the middle of the road his eyes lit up, we’ll wait and see 

That evening saw me deliver my last lecture of the academic term with my undergraduate class, and everyone was in good form and preparing to ease into the holidays. We finished up on a high, discussing organisational culture and its effect on safety; and the influence of regulation (or lack of it) in how organisations are managed. In particular we looked to the Enron case study, and there were smiles all round as we finished up for the Christmas holidays after a thought-provoking and engaging seminar.
I couldn’t help but feel really encouraged for where our profession is headed on departing Hendon that evening. I was beaming like a Cheshire cat, feeling really happy with the conversations had, keynotes I was fortunate enough to have attended, and relationships sown during my first few months in London. What really had me on a high was the exchange of goodwill, smiles and even some selfies with students before we finished up. I look forward to returning in January, and hope to have an academic term as encouraging as the one I’ve just had. Here’s hoping…

Wishing you all a lovely time over the holiday season, and a fun-filled, exciting, meaningful and healthy 2018!


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