Posts tagged ‘RoSPA’

1 August, 2014

1974 and all that

The first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Woolwich London, the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus broadcast on BBC 2, Kate Moss and Robbie Williams were born, London Zoo received a gift of giant pandas – Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia – and Teenage Rampage by Sweet was in the charts.

Remember all of this? well, what I wasn’t aware of aged 14 was the death of 10 miners in a methane gas explosion at Golborne Colliery near Wigan Lancashire, the Flixborough disaster that resulted in the death of 28 people in South Humberside, or the advent of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

40 years later, as occupational health and safety policy adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), I have used this pivotal piece of legislation for reference, as a training tool and as a means by which to engage with organisations about the topic of health and safety.

It has stood the test of time and in spite of its critics has provided a framework for improvement in health and safety standards across the UK.

The proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach promulgated by the act,

Karen McDonnell

Karen McDonnell

associated guidance and codes of practice, has resulted in a significant downturn in the number of people killed, seriously injured or developing life-limiting conditions as a consequence of poor working conditions.

An overall reduction from 651 fatalities in 1974 to 148 (employees and self employed) in the year 2012/13, real evidence that the approach set out by Lord Robens has worked for UK plc, performance improvement that is envied across the world.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act has held its own at the heart of the health and safety system, offering a core set of principles that can be universally applied. Competent health and safety practitioners and campaigning organisations such as RoSPA hold these principles dear and recognise the contribution that the act has made in saving lives and reducing injuries to workers across the UK.

Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s occupational health and safety policy adviser

17 June, 2014

Easy rider hits the road – slowly

When you hear the word ‘motorcycle’, you tend to think of a lean machine zipping through the traffic. It’s a vehicle often associated with speed, yet I’m heading off on a slow motorcycle challenge this week to raise £500 for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety campaign.

Roger B bike picIt’s the e2w slowly challenge and it takes place on the 21 and 22 June.

I’ll be riding my trusty 1979 TS150 MZ to raise money for RoSPA’s campaign, because at least 27 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their homes since 2001.

Tragically, in most of these cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor to the house was driving the vehicle.

RoSPA has been working to raise awareness of driveway dangers among the parents, carers and grandparents of young children. And with your help, they can do more.

My fellow riders and I will be set off from the most easterly part of Great Britain in Lowestoft on the longest day of the year and finish up in St David’s, the most westerly point, at sunset the next day.

We will ride vintage motorcycles, mostly over 25 years old and under 200cc, and travel mainly on minor roads. We will carry all camping gear, tools and supplies (except water and petrol) on our bikes and¬ there will be no backup vehicle.

Please help me to raise life-saving funds for RoSAPA. You can donate by visiting

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s retired occupational safety adviser

20 May, 2014

Aching bones can’t thwart charity Highland trek

For the past few months, Liz Lumsden has been sharing preparations for her West Highland Way walk in aid of a RoSPA child safety project. Here, she blogs about the tough 50-mile two-day trek itself.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Not many people will walk 25 miles in one day – and then get up the next morning and walk another 25! For me, that was the biggest challenge. I have done walks before of a similar length, but always had a day to recover before going back to work. To repeat the experience on a second day was not easy.

My son Donald and I had agreed to walk 50 miles of the West Highland Way to raise funds for the printing and distribution of The Birthday Party, a children’s book about safety. RoSPA wants every child starting school in Scotland this year to get a copy.

We began at 7am on day one with a climb out of Crainlarich before the terrain flattened out for a while during the seven miles over to Tyndrum. After a coffee we headed off over to Bridge of Orchy in time for lunch. We needed it – the next stage was a real climb and ended up on Rannoch Moor – 10 miles of desolation – before the long walk down the mountains to the only hotel for miles – the Kingshouse. We could see it from it about three miles away and kept thinking about the bath and the hot meal that were waiting for us.

I ached from head to toe by the time I crawled (almost literally) into bed that night. I didn’t feel much better the next morning, but there was no going back. It wasn’t a very appealing thought to get started as the rain had been pouring down most of the night and had only eased off a bit by 8am.

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch!

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch! Well deserved we say!

Waterproofs on, we were ready to complete the challenge. After a fairly flat start we had to climb the Devil’s Staircase. It’s tough, but thankfully doesn’t last for long and the following section is mostly flat or downhill into Kinlochleven. The sun even came out for a while.

We were able to enjoy lunch in the sun before popping into a cafe in Kinlochleven for coffee and white chocolate “rocky road” (my favourite!). The sugar rush kept us going on the long climb out of Kinlochleven and down through the most amazing valley before the final slog to Fort William.

Like the previous day, we could see where we wanted to be long before we reached it. The last section of the West Highland Way is on surfaces that are very unforgiving and our bones started to really ache with about five miles still to go.

We walked with friends who were fundraising for other charities and had a real sense of achievement when we crossed the finishing line. We all had friends and family to meet us and were receiving text messages during the last few hours encouraging us to “keep going”.

Donald and I love to walk, but this was certainly his biggest challenge to date and he completed it suffering from only one blister (I managed to avoid having any – thanks to the amazing properties of Vaseline!).

I managed to exceed my fundraising target, but we still need money for the project. Every £1 raised will mean three parents can share home safety messages while reading The Birthday Party to their children. You can still donate at or by texting WWHW50 £2, WWHW50 £5 or WWHW50 £10 to 70070.

20 January, 2014

Rowing for Richard

Last summer, Amelia Goodwin and three friends took to the Thames to raise funds for RoSPA in memory of a friend who had died in an accident. Here, she shares her story in a bid to raise awareness and more funds for a campaign:

Amelia and friends celebrate after completing The Great River Race 2013!

Amelia, pictured in the middle wearing a blue neck scarf, and friends celebrate after completing The Great River Race 2013!

The Hampton Sailing Club decided to raise money for RoSPA in memory of our dear friends Alison and John’s son Richard Hollands, who died in March 2013, aged 32.

We wanted to do something to help after the sad news that Richard had died in an accident. In the words of Alison, Richard’s mother, this is why:

“Our dear son Richard’s untimely death was caused by a fire in his West London flat, which started whilst he was sleeping.

“In memory of Richard, we will be working with RoSPA on a campaign related to the dangers of fire for young people living in flats in London.

“We aim to raise awareness of the need to fit smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as other causes of fires, to help ensure other parents do not suffer in the way that we have.”

Ellen, Jane, Annabel and I rowed The Great River Race, London’s 22-mile river marathon, on 7 September, 2013.

We were in a classic wooden Thames skiff, beautiful, but older and heavier than today’s racing skiffs and with no sliding seats!

It was a spectacular boat race up the River Thames, with over 300 crews from all over the globe. There was every level of competitor, from those who enjoy fun, fancy dress and charity stunts, to serious Olympic-level teams.

And they're off! Amelia and friends put in some hard graft in memory of Richard.

And they’re off! Amelia and friends put in some hard graft in memory of Richard.

The race cannon started at 12.10pm in Greenwich and we hoped to beat our previous time of three hours and 40 minutes, luckily without the rain and thunder from the year before.

Friends cheered us on and we had a lump in our throats as we passed The Rutland Arms, a favourite place of Richard’s at Chiswick Bridge, where we heard a cheer from a large group of Richard’s close friends, including Martin and Katy.

Another emotional moment spurred us on when we arrived at Richmond Bridge soon after 4pm, where John, Alison and their grandson Rex cheered us along for the final stretch.

We were so pleased to beat our previous time by 16 minutes and finished at Ham House in three hours and 24 minutes. I’d like to thank everyone so much for their support, we raised over £1,200 for RoSPA and we couldn’t have done it without everyone getting behind us to cheer us along.

If you would like to support our life-saving campaign with RoSPA, visit our JustGiving page:

Amelia Goodwin

5 December, 2013

Sioned Rees: My accident was a wake-up call

I love mountain climbing. Ever since I can remember my father has always dragged me along his long hikes around the local mountains of South Wales where I was brought up. I grew to love walking and I have always especially loved the beautiful sights from the summit of Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Prior to my accident, I had attempted to climb Snowdon twice. The first time the weather was dreadful, but it was my 18th birthday and I was determined to reach the top. We didn’t make it and we were defeated by the weather. However, my second attempt was successful – my father and I scrambled across ‘y grib goch’ and we reached the summit!

On June 17, 2013, I had a spontaneous idea to climb Snowdon. This crazy idea involved me going dressed as I was, and unprepared for the conditions. As I approached the top, I was exhausted, but I went to find a quiet space along the summit. It was a little ledge tucked out of the way of the crowd of people gathered at the top. I sat down and lay quiet watching the spectacular views…

I wasn’t prepared for climbing up Snowdon. Not in the clothes I was wearing nor the equipment I had with me. Neither was I prepared to suffer the exhausting after effects of climbing so high so spontaneously. I fell asleep on the ledge I was laid on. Suddenly, I woke to find myself falling. Next thing I remember is being freezing cold and not being able to see a thing for the fog surrounding the mountain. Sixteen hours later I mustered enough strength through my shivering to scream for help but got no reply. I gather I must have fallen asleep or been out of consciousness for the next few minutes or so, enough for the fog to clear, and I was just about able to see the path, the ‘pyg’ trail. I saw some people walking and managed to shout a few times for help. This time I got a reply and one of them started running towards me. “Help, I’m stuck,” I screamed. They said they would call for help, and they did.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

Twenty hours after I first fell, The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had managed to climb down to find me. I don’t remember much detail but my gosh was I glad to see them. The RAF Mountain Valley Rescue team then turned up, and apparently it was piloted by Prince William. Finding me was half the battle as they didn’t know where I was. I was found 300ft short of the summit.

I was taken to hospital where I found out I’d suffered multiple spinal fractures as well as a fractured sternum and gouges to rival the Grand Canyon. I lay flat on my back for almost two weeks. I then learned to walk again following an operation to insert two titanium rods into my spine. I have learned never to go ill-prepared and always to let someone know where I am going, and what my plans are! The main factor contributing to my accident was my little preparation and the fact that I hadn’t told anyone even though I felt prepared. I didn’t realise the danger I was putting myself in to.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

My recovery has been long and difficult. At the time of my accident, I was in my first year of a nursing degree. Now my hopeful career of nursing has had to be put on hold while I recover. I miss my old student life and would like to raise awareness of the dangers of climbing mountains unprepared.

Sioned Rees

Some guidance from our leisure safety manager David Walker:

Sioned has been very brave in sharing her story. Rescue operations of people who have misjudged the dangers while climbing mountains or who were unprepared for the conditions are common and there are lots of sources of advice for climbers, hill walkers, and mountaineers, available from the British Mountaineering Council.

RoSPA’s advice is to be prepared for the terrain and always have a plan B.

27 November, 2013

Bunk beds – are your children sleeping safely?

New arrivals in the family are a joy, but they soon need their own bed. Often this will mean smaller rooms being turned into bedrooms or siblings sharing a room.  In this edition of my blog, I will look at how parents can safely use bunk beds for their children to sleep in.

ClimbingIt is estimated that there are seven bed-related fatalities a year in the UK, along with 1,000 children injured after falling from beds.

Unsurprisingly, most accidents involving bunk beds occur when children are playing on them and so they should be discouraged from doing so.

At the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we recommend that no child under the age of six sleeps in the top bunk.

In one study of accidents involving bunk beds, the age group found to be most at risk was between two and six years (which represented 57 per cent of the accidents studied).

Of the accidents, 40 per cent resulted from “children playing”, but entrapment leading to strangulation has also been recognised as a particular hazard and is dealt with by the safety laws.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

In fact, the harmonised European standard for bunk beds requires that the manufacturer’s instructions provided with new bunk beds contains the phrase “be aware of the danger of young children (under six) falling from the upper bunk”.

Sadly, it is not just the top bunk that can be dangerous. Earlier this year an eight-month-old girl accidentally hanged herself when she became wedged between a mattress and ladder while wriggling in her bunk bed.

She had been sleeping in the bottom bunk for two months after a health visitor said she should be given her own room.

Her parents fitted a bed brace to ensure the baby didn’t fall out, but somehow she managed to wriggle between the bars of the ladder leading to the top bunk and got stuck against the mattress.

Our advice here at RoSPA is very clear – bunk beds are perfectly safe for kids as long as safety checks are in place.

Children under six should not be allowed on the top bunk, although they may seem safe and be responsible. It can only take one awkward fall to sustain an injury.iStock_000012073096Large

Parents should consider very carefully whether allowing a child younger than six to sleep on the bottom bunk is safe for them.  Babies should always have their own cots, and toddlers can get trapped, as we have seen, so please don’t think that just because your child is under six, they will automatically be safe on the bottom bunk.

Another thing to consider is a thinner mattress for the top bunk as a standard single mattress may be too thick and will allow the child to roll over the safety barrier.

Importantly, do not allow any type of cord, rope, belt, scarf or anything similar to be hung from the top bunk. Also, do not place bunk beds near windows which have cord operated blinds – it is safer not to have this type of window covering in a child’s bedroom. This is because children can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped blind cords, sometimes with parents or carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.

red_houseI know only too well from my own children that youngsters love to play on bunk beds, but climbing and bouncing around on the top bunk should not be permitted.

Every part to a bunk bed is important, so when assembling bunk beds, ensure that all safety barriers are in place, especially if buying a second-hand one.

Finally, when booking your holidays, please check what the sleeping arrangements for your children will be.  RoSPA has received reports in the past of holiday firms booking rooms for children under six with bunk beds.  My advice is to be very explicit at the point of booking whether or not bunk beds will be suitable for your children.

I hope this blog has been of use to you, so sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Philip le Shirley, product safety consultant at RoSPA.

28 October, 2013

Making waves for RoSPA

Ten thousand people squeezed themselves into wetsuits to take part in the Great North Swim in beautiful Windermere recently – and I am proud to say that I was one of them.

SueMullarkey_fundraisingOpen water swimming events are becoming increasingly popular and this one is part of a series of five Great Swims held up and down the country from London’s Docklands to Loch Lomond. The participants range from elite open-water swimmers to complete novices (like me), many of whom take on the challenge of swimming a mile to raise money for their favourite charity.

When James, my brother-in-law and a seasoned triathlete, asked last Christmas if he could stay with us in the Lake District so he could do the Windermere swim, it got me thinking that I should enter too.  I have always enjoyed swimming, both in the pool and on those rare sunny days in Cumbria from the back of our sailing boat in Derwentwater. And one mile really didn’t sound that far.  A couple of sessions a week at the local leisure centre and I was soon able to crack the requisite number of lengths – 64.  But swimming any distance in a pool is, of course, very much easier than doing it in open water.

Whilst I was honing my front crawl, RoSPA had just started to carry out sponsored fundraising for the first time and so I was persuaded to become a guinea pig fundraiser.  As a mum, I have been shocked to learn that accidental death and injury is the biggest threat to children – far more than disease – and yet just about everybody is unaware of this.  Simple programmes can really help to educate parents on how to keep their kids safe and RoSPA does this, campaigning on a wide range of issues to change people’s perceptions.  Most people are happy to give to a charity which supports some quite obscure or rare disease but perhaps don’t know much about this more urgent way to use their donation.  So I was keen to do my bit to help get RoSPA noticed.

As sponsor money began to roll in from generous friends, family and supporters, the arrival of a slinky new wetsuit just a couple of weeks before the swim added another dimension to my training.  I tried it out in chilly Derwentwater and, although it kept me warmish, it felt tight and restrictive and made me so overly buoyant that I had to completely adjust my technique.  A mile was beginning to seem like a long way.

"As a mum, I have been shocked to learn that accidental death and injury is the biggest threat to children – far more than disease – and yet just about everybody is unaware of this." - Sue Mullarkey

“As a mum, I have been shocked to learn that accidental death and injury is the biggest threat to children – far more than disease – and yet just about everybody is unaware of this.” – Sue Mullarkey

The day of the swim was cool and breezy and, arriving at the lakeshore already a bundle of nerves, I was terrified to see how grey and choppy Windermere looked.  I’d fretted about water temperature, uncomfortable wetsuits, leaky goggles, getting kicked in the face by another swimmer (I could go on) but never even considered the possibility that the water might be rough. Neoprene-clad swimmers of all ages and shapes were limbering up or, if they had already completed the swim, posing for photos with their medals – and everyone was talking about how choppy the water was.  But if they could do it, I could too – besides I couldn’t let down all those people who were so generously supporting me and RoSPA.

Great North Swim participants are divided into ‘waves’ which start at half-hourly intervals over the weekend and each involve up to 300 people in colour-coded swimming hats.  James and I were sporting natty pink caps and, after taking part in the mass warm-up session, it was time for our wave to take to the water. The start was a melee of thrashing legs and arms, but heeding James’ advice and staying near the back of the pack I managed to avoid being kicked or swum over by the keen guys. If the water was cold, I really didn’t notice it – choppiness was the major problem.  It was impossible to get into a rhythm because every breath involved an unwelcome gulp of lake-water.  I soon abandoned my hard-practiced front crawl for a more defensive breaststroke/doggy paddle.  Progress was very slow.  But after 57 exhausting minutes, I had done a final flourish of crawl past the finish and was back on dry land – wobbly-legged but elated.  No matter that the fastest (elite) lady took just 19 minutes!

It was a great challenge, wonderful to have been able to raise over £1,000 for RoSPA and, what’s more, I am already training for next year.

Sue Mullarkey

23 October, 2013

Big-hearted Brummies cheer on RoSPA runner

It’s easy to be cynical when there’s so much suffering in the world, isn’t it?

photoYet what I experienced during the Great Birmingham Run last Sunday was something wholly uplifting.

Uplifting because of the suffering – not in spite of. Almost every one of the 20,000 runners who took to the streets did so with the name of someone they’d loved and lost pinned to their top – yet it was the feeling of hope and humanity that pervaded.

And it wasn’t just the runners that inspired. The people of Birmingham proved how big-hearted they are as they lined the route to offer high-fives, drinks, sweets, songs, applause and encouragement.

They were a true source of support when the going got tough…which, for me, was on the pretty steep approach to Five Ways, just a couple of miles from the tape.

As a campaigner and a fundraiser, I learned many lessons on the day. Giving all you’ve got can be its own reward – but that is multiplied a million times over when it’s shared by many for a common purpose.

These were my thoughts as I hit Calthorpe Road and pushed past RoSPA House with the red flag flying high.

It might sound a bit Chariots of Fire, but I mustered as much strength as I could for a strong finish, as the field doubled back on itself to attack Broad Street, and “home”.

Michael's nephews and brother-in-law show their support at the six-mile mark.

Michael’s nephews and brother-in-law show their support at the six-mile mark.

Crossing the line after 13.1 miles was like nothing else – you’re filled with an enormous sense of wellbeing that you want to pass to others. And I suppose that’s why I love working for a charity – and for RoSPA, in particular.

It’s that desire to be part of something bigger than yourself, and to bring wellbeing where there is suffering. And, let’s face it, there’s still plenty of suffering, as accidents continue to be the top cause of early, preventable death for most of our lives.

If you want to be part of our fight to keep families safe, there’s still time to show your support by visiting my JustGiving page.

At the time of writing, I’m just a few quid shy of £600.

A big “thank you” to everyone who has already chipped in. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising

11 October, 2013

Born to run

I’ve set myself more targets than an NHS middle manager with an obsession for Gantt charts and network diagrams.

See you at the starting line!

See you at the finish line!

But, don’t worry – unlike the hollow-cheeked mandarin of a results-driven monolith, my goals for the Birmingham half-marathon are reasonably realistic.

I have one more week of training before the starting pistol is fired on Sunday, October 20.

But before I take up my position on the white line – where I’ll be doing the haka while smeared in embrocation – I’d like to run some numbers by you.

The build-up will see me undertake 6 miles at race pace on Sunday, a 40-minute recovery run on the Tuesday, a 40-minute tempo run on the Wednesday and a 50-minute easy run on the Friday.

So far I reckon I’ve run about 200 miles as part of my training programme.

I’m intending not to bring too much shame on myself, my family and the Society by running the 13.1miles inside two hours.

But my other “big” target, is not actually that big. I’ve set myself a very modest fundraising target of £500.

At the time of writing I’m about £100 short of this minuscule amount – albeit with quite a few promises in my top pocket.

But better a friendly refusal than an unwilling promise, says I. So, there’s absolutely no pressure there. Absolutely none. Won’t mind in the slightest. Not at all, etc., ad nauseam…

There are two ways to pay: you can visit my JustGiving page, where donating is super-quick and super-simple.

Or you can stump up through your mobile phone. Whatever network you’re on, simply text PLEA01 and an amount of £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 – and please don’t forget to add Gift Aid to your donation.

For those with nothing better to do on a Sunday morning, the event will be screened live on Channel Five from 10am.

Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising

13 September, 2013

When the going gets Tufty …


With just over six weeks to go until the BUPA Great Birmingham run, it’s time for RoSPA’s head of campaigns and runner Michael Corley to call in the big-name trainer. Find out more about why he’s running here.

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