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Denial - head in the sand

Overcoming those in Denial

A word or two from our Martyn

CallConfidential – Martyn Gomersall

One of my favourite TV programmes is Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (that’s the one where he tries to help floundering restaurants pick up their business and return them to profitability). In this program the one thing that astounds me is the number of owners who are in absolute denial about their business performance and initially cannot see anything wrong with their abilities as chefs / owners / restauranteurs.

In my experience, this behaviour is not unlike safety in the workplace. I am often called upon to visit sites to take a look at safety arrangements, to identify issues of health and safety concern and to make suggestions for improvements. Often site managers are seemingly astonished at the issues I find; some concerns were really quite serious ones too. In line with the TV Programme there is usually a denial phase, an insistence that all is well, then comes the “it couldn’t happen to us” phase, and the sort of notion that I am just a “prophet of doom” and predicting something which is never going to happen.

Overcoming the denial stage is a challenge and whilst Gordon Ramsay may get away with cussing and profanity I am not able to use that approach though recently I have resorted to asking the site managers to imagine if it were their children on site, would they allow their children to be exposed to such danger?

Persuading otherwise rational people that their way is not the safe and sage way is a continual uphill battle but necessary because if you cannot persuade the boss of your safety concerns then nothing will be done to improve the situation.

Incidentally some time ago I lost a neat little part time contract because I complained about the condition of some slings in a construction site tool store. The site foreman insisted that the slings were the private property of the dumper driver (?) and nothing to do with him or his company. I disagreed and wrote the issue into the site NCR book… I finished the inspection, said “cheerio” and off I went; within an hour I had a phone call from the company telling me my services were no longer required.

I stuck to my guns on this one and I am not afraid to do that in future… I do it with professional aplomb but my protestations are always insistent. Overcoming those in denial takes skill, understanding and lots of tact…

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