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How to Improve Health and Safety Using a Marginal Gains Approach

In today's fast-paced world, driven by efficiency and productivity, the concept of marginal gains has gained significant recognition. Originating from the realm of sports, where athletes strive to enhance their performance by making small incremental improvements across various areas, the principle of marginal gains has found its way into numerous fields, including health and safety.

By breaking down a larger goal into smaller, more manageable parts, and focusing on making small improvements in each area, individuals and organisations can achieve significant progress over time. The approach emphasises the importance of continuous improvement and the idea that even small changes can make a big difference in the long run.

Throughout this blog, we will explore how a marginal gains approach can be effectively applied to enhance health and safety. Examining the power of incremental changes in various contexts and discussing practical strategies and tips to implement this approach in your own life or organisation.

The 1% marginal gains rule

Sir Dave Brailsford, the mastermind behind British Cycling's success, introduced a ground-breaking principle: marginal gains

Sir Dave Brailsford, the mastermind behind British Cycling's success, introduced a ground-breaking principle: marginal gains. His idea was simple yet powerful. By making 1% improvements in various areas, the cumulative effect would be extraordinary. This "micro excellence" approach propelled the British cycling team from mediocrity to 16 Olympic golds and seven Tour de France victories in just eight years.

Their methods became the stuff of legends in the sports world. Brailsford’s attention to detail was unparalleled. He had the team truck's floors painted pristine white to spot even the tiniest speck of dust that could disrupt bike maintenance. They redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable and rubbed alcohol on the tires for a better grip.

These seemingly small changes alone didn't guarantee wins, but when combined with numerous other improvements, they made all the difference.

A marginal gains approach to health and safety

Health and safety are paramount concerns in any setting, be it a workplace, a community, or even our own homes. While major overhauls and significant changes can undoubtedly have a profound impact on overall safety, sometimes it's the small, seemingly insignificant adjustments that can make all the difference. That's where the concept of a marginal gains approach comes into play. The idea is to focus on making small improvements in every aspect of health and safety, from equipment to training to well-being, in order to gain a competitive edge.

Identify small improvements

Start by identifying the small improvements that can be made in health and safety. This could include things like improving lighting in a workspace, providing ergonomic equipment, or implementing safety protocols.

Clear signage and markings: Ensure all safety signs are clear and visible and mark any potential hazards and safety equipment appropriately.

Ergonomic adjustments: Reduce strain and discomfort by providing suitable ergonomic equipment for employees. Encourage staff to adopt proper posture and take regular breaks.

Regular training and communication: Conduct regular health and safety training sessions to keep employees informed about potential risks, emergency procedures, and best practices. Encourage open communication channels for reporting safety concerns or incidents.

Improved lighting: Reduce eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, and poor concentration. Look out for glare on monitors, flickering lights, uneven lighting, and insufficient lighting. Improved lighting will boost the health, mood, and productivity of employees.

Stress reduction initiatives: Recognise the impact of mental health on overall well-being and productivity. Encourage stress management techniques, provide access to counselling services, and promote work-life balance.

Prioritise improvements

Not all improvements carry the same weight in terms of their effect on health and safety or how easily they can be implemented. Prioritise your list of potential improvements by assessing their potential result. Focus on changes that have the highest impact and can be executed without significant disruptions or resource constraints.

Implement improvements

To ensure a smooth and effective transition, implement the identified improvements one at a time. This approach allows you to carefully monitor and assess the impact of each change and make any adjustments needed, before moving on to the next. By implementing changes incrementally, you can better understand their effectiveness and address any unforeseen challenges that may arise.

Measure progress

Continuously measure progress and track the effect of each improvement on overall safety. This will help identify areas that still need improvement and allow for further marginal gains. Set yourself a clear objective of what you want to achieve, for example by improving lighting you could see an increase in productivity, or by providing access to counselling services, you might be looking to see a reduction in staff absence rates.

Encourage employee involvement

Encourage employees to be involved in the whole process by asking for feedback and suggestions for improvements. This will help create a culture of safety and continuous improvement.

Involving employees in the decision-making and improvement processes can significantly boost their level of engagement. They feel valued and recognised for their contributions, leading to higher job satisfaction and overall morale. Engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile, take initiative, and contribute innovative ideas to drive marginal gains.

Supportive Solutions approach

The beauty of the marginal gains approach lies in its simplicity. Rather than relying on drastic overhauls or quick fixes, businesses can make incremental improvements to health and safety that can add up to significant improvements over time.

Supportive Solutions can provide the support you need to implement a marginal gains approach to health and safety. Contact us to unlock the potential of marginal gains for a safer and healthier workplace.


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