Posts tagged ‘safety education’

28 February, 2014

Fundraising trek is a family affair

Kenneth Hamilton tells us why he’s fundraising for RoSPA.

I have always known about RoSPA for as long as I can remember: my mum Liz has worked at the Edinburgh office for nearly 20 years. When I heard that she was walking the West Highland Way to raise money for the charity I was really happy to help.

Kenneth with his trusty Nordic poles!

Kenneth with his trusty Nordic walking poles!

I have wanted to walk the West Highland Way for a while but have never committed to it before. This will be a good opportunity for me to carry out the walk and help raise money for a RoSPA and Go Safe Scotland project.

My mother and brother covered the West Highland Way in seven days. We will be walking half of this journey in two days, so the pressure is on to get fit and fast!

I work out regularly in the gym and I have just taken on a challenge to do 10,000 kettlebell swings in four weeks. This will give me a physical (and mental) challenge to work through and complete, and will help with my strength before the walk.

So far my mum and I have practiced every second Sunday and will continue to do so until the day of the walk in April. On the first practice run we walked from Linlithgow, along the canal, to Falkirk train station. My fitness was fine but I did get a pain in my knee and just made it to the train back home!

The second training Sunday was a few miles longer. We walked the first part of the West Highland Way and we will continue to walk each subsequent part so that I will have actually completed the full journey.

Kenneth makes a quick pit stop while in training for the West Highland Way.

Kenneth makes a quick pit stop while in training for the West Highland Way.

I tried out Nordic walking poles and was very surprised how much they helped with speed and release of pressure on the joints, I will definitely continue to use them and would recommend them to anyone.

Although the first part wasn’t very difficult I know that it will get harder and the extra miles each day will be quite difficult. So I will continue to work out at the gym and we will both continue walking every second weekend.

I’m raising money for a RoSPA/Go Safe Scotland project my mum is working on. It’s a book which will be available initially to all children starting school this summer in Scotland. The Birthday Party has been written by award-winning children’s author Linda Strachan. It is part of an initiative to provide safety education for primary school children.

If you would like to sponsor me please visit, and “gieze awe your money”.

6 September, 2011

Shopping for safety with RoSPA and dbda

RoSPA’s partner in safety, dbda, has launched a shiny new website to showcase our range of products. Visit to take a look at what’s on offer.

Resources cover a vast range of topics and safety areas, from workplace safety to safety at home, on the road, in and around water, and at leisure.

Also on offer is an exceptional variety of safety education materials aimed at teachers and schools, as well as posters, books and activities for parents and governors. In fact, we’ve just released a new set of resources aimed at teachers – if you want to build safety into your lessons, your first stop should be RoSPA.

Posters, books and videos are a great way of supplementing and illustrating safety messages, helping to bring safety to life. Go and visit, and take a look around: there’s something for everyone and plenty of ideas to inspire a safer way of life.

15 July, 2011

A childhood scald can be a life sentence

We were recently made aware of a good video by North Bristol NHS Trust called “Hot Drinks Harm”, produced to highlight the scalding risk to children posed by hot tea and coffee.

Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is burned or scalded in an accident. That’s quite a shocking statistic, particularly when you realise just how serious it can be.

Most people are well aware that a scald or burn is extremely painful when it happens. However, not many know that a serious scald in childhood is a life sentence for the individual – and one that can be easily avoided.

It’s relatively well known that hot bath water is the number one cause of serious scalding injuries among young children. Every day, at least one child under five is admitted to hospital with serious scalds caused by bath water. Thankfully, the fitting of thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) is reducing the incidence of bath-time scalds.

Less well known, though, is the fact that many children go to hospital each day with scalds caused by hot drinks.

Under-fives make up six per cent of the population but receive a much larger proportion of scald injuries. Given children’s smaller size, they are more damaged, proportionally, than adults by the same amount of hot water. Children’s skin – and particularly babies’ skin – can be up to 15 times thinner than adults’, making it far more delicate and susceptible to damage. Did you know that a hot drink can still scald a child up to 15 minutes after being made?

So what are the costs?

Scalds make up around 70 per cent of all burns injuries to children. From a purely financial point of view, the cost to the NHS is an average of £1,850 per child scalded – in really severe cases, up to £250,000.

However, the implications of a childhood scald go far beyond monetary costs: a burn injury takes seconds, but stays for life. A child who receives a burn or scald can look forward to years of painful treatment; and in the most serious cases, they face hundreds of operations to release the scar tissue as they grow.

With serious burns, it’s not just a case of patching up a child with protective bandages and antiseptic – skin grafts are required, and a toddler may need further grafts until they stop growing 15 or 20 years later.

The psychological impact of a burn injury is also immense, particularly when children reach their teenage years and have to cope with their scarring alongside the usual teenage image and self-confidence issues. Some children are disfigured for life, with their parents experiencing a prolonged sense of guilt.

Support is available for families who have experienced scald injuries; but it’s far better to prevent them occurring in the first place.

What can be done?

A few simple precautions can prevent a lifetime of pain:

  • Don’t hold a hot drink and a child at the same time
  • Never leave young children alone in the bathroom
  • Put hot drinks out of reach and away from the edges of tables and worktops – and beware of tablecloths! A drink in the middle of the table can quickly be a danger to a toddler grabbing at the edge of a tablecloth
  • Encourage the use of a coiled flex or a cordless kettle
  • Keep small children out of the kitchen whenever possible
  • Run the domestic hot water system at 46°C or fit a thermostatic mixing valve to taps
  • When running a bath turn the cold water on first and always test the water temperature with your elbow before letting a child get into the bath or shower
  • Always use rear hotplates and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker
  • Keep hot irons, curling tongs and hair straighteners out of reach even when cooling down – or use a heat-proof bag.

We need to make people understand that these are largely preventable injuries, emphasising that the cost of treatment is far greater than the cost of prevention. Nobody wants their child to come to harm, so in most cases, a little education goes a very long way.

Jane Trobridge, home safety officer for RoSPA

6 June, 2011

Safe at Home: A Two-Tier Success

Following on from Michael Corley’s recent blog post – Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics – about accident prevention, it seems that the topic of today’s blog post is entirely appropriate as an illustration of how accident prevention can work.

In 2009, RoSPA launched the Safe At Home scheme (funded by the former Department for Children, Schools and Families), which had the aim of reducing accident rates among under-fives through targeted support for families in 141 areas in England with the highest accident rates.

Support included the provision of home safety information and safety equipment, such as safety gates, fireguards and window restrictors, through a network of new and existing local home safety equipment schemes. RoSPA also trained staff working at the local schemes.

The scheme has been incredibly successful, exceeding its target of supplying safety equipment to 60,196 families. The final figures show that the total number of families to receive free equipment by March 31, 2011, when the scheme came to an end, was an impressive 66,127.

This type of venture is a great example of how the Government’s “Big Society” could work at its best. It’s also a great antidote to those who wail about the “nanny state” and “busybodies” – those who have benefited from the scheme tell a very different story

You see, raising awareness of risk is NOT the same as telling people what to do in their own homes. If you’re a new parent, or are not around small children very often, it’s unlikely that you’ll know about the hazards toddlers face in the home.

Getting down on your hands and knees and looking at the world from their point of view paints a very different picture – and reveals a multitude of hazards that were not apparent before.

For instance, before I started working at RoSPA, I had no idea that blind cords could pose any risk to children (or my cats!) – and why would I, without being told? I’ll always make sure I tie cords away with a cleat in the future – which is all that is required if, like me, you like blinds that require cords.

Accident prevention is not about banning things left, right and centre and it’s not about stopping people from having fun; it’s about raising awareness of the risks and taking reasonable steps to mitigate them – as well as improving industry safety standards. Our blind cord safety campaign is a good illustration of the type of work we do.

Presenting people with good advice and information, and allowing them to make their own choices about how to protect their families, enables them to take responsibility for their own safety without having outside “experts” tell them what to do.

All accident prevention work should be based on sound data, to ensure that time, money and resources are not wasted on interventions that target the wrong people, or are simply unlikely to work.

The statistics mentioned earlier enabled us to target the Safe At Home scheme at those who needed it most. In order to qualify to receive equipment, families with children aged 0-5 must have been living in an area covered by a participating project, and must also have been in receipt of certain benefits.

The evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be injured or killed in accidents. And in fact, shockingly, children of parents who are long-term unemployed or who have never worked are 13 times more likely to die as a result of unintentional injury and 37 times more likely to die from exposure to smoke, fire or flames than children of parents in higher managerial or professional occupations.

By installing a few simple safety measures such as smoke alarms, stair gates and window restrictors, the quality of life for these families could be vastly improved at no cost to themselves, and little cost to society – compared with the vast amount of money accidents and injuries cost us all.

It is hoped that the Safe At Home project has enabled local communities to run their own sustainable projects now the national scheme has come to an end.

More details about the achievements of Safe At Home will be announced when the project’s evaluation report is published in the next few weeks.

In the end, accident prevention advice and information could save the life of one of your family members. If you talked to someone who had lost a child in a home accident, you would probably find they had a very different perspective from the “elf ‘n’ safety” myths whipped up by some sections of the media.

Prevention is always better than cure. This applies to accident prevention as much as anything else. Join the debate – and support our campaign today.

Vicky Fraser, RoSPA’s Press Officer/Web Editor

13 May, 2011

Road safety education – are we getting it right?

Professor Frank McKenna

In September 2010 Professor Frank McKenna wrote a “think piece” for the RAC on road safety education, called: Education in road safety: are we getting it right? I recently had the opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the paper with Professor McKenna.

Frank McKenna is well known to RoSPA – he is a member of the road safety committee and a regular speaker at RoSPA road safety congresses. He is also known professionally for his work on hazard perception, which led ultimately to the implementation of the hazard perception test as part of initial driver testing.

As a psychologist Frank began working on road safety almost 30 years ago. He recalls, with some irony, that his interest arose “by accident” when he was offered a job at the Applied Psychology Unit at the University of Cambridge, for which he had no previous experience. It seems that that lack of experience was the best possible start as he began his research with no prior assumptions about what individual factors influenced road accident involvement. A review of the literature at the time revealed a lack of evidence for what works in preventing road accidents and that interventions were based on “little more than superstition”.

Professor McKenna had two other advantages at this early stage in his career: regular contact with road safety practitioners to whom he is often asked to speak, and communication with victims and families of victims with whom he has often shared conference platforms.

“It is profoundly unnatural to outlive one’s own children, and yet this is what happens in families where a young person is killed in a road accident,” he said.

Throughout his career these two motivations – scientific curiosity and the desire to reduce road casualties, especially amongst the young – have sustained him and made him one of the most influential figures in road safety in the UK today.

The RAC “think piece” focuses on road safety education. Frank defines education as “the communication of knowledge from one to many” and distinguishes this from training, which is skills based. This distinction may seem odd to teachers of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) which aims to develop young people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes. Frank acknowledges this dilemma and suggests that educators need to be clearer about their aims and objectives when planning an intervention. This would make it much easier to establish if we are “getting it right”. He also stresses that much of what he says about road safety education applies to other health concerns such as drug education and to public health interventions in general.

So what are Frank’s key messages for road safety practitioners?

“First do no harm.”

This is an important ethical principle in medicine as well as public health, but also has practical and financial implications. We can’t afford to waste resources on interventions which do not work, or which may make matters worse, for example one which contributes to a misperception of the social norm. Interventions which highlight the frequency of unsafe driving by young people can lead to the perception that most young people drive recklessly, speed, drink and drive and do not wear their seat belts. A moment’s reflection will reveal that this is not the case.

Rather, Frank says, we should focus on the outcomes for victims and their families. Even a minor collision can have serious health and financial consequences which, if they could be prevented, would benefit individuals and society as a whole.

The next key message relates to planning interventions. It is not enough to want the world to be a safer place; we need to plan our interventions on the best possible evidence available. Currently that evidence is very sparse (across the whole of public health, not just road safety). In the absence of evidence we need to focus on theory; unfortunately, however, too few practitioners (e.g. road safety officers, fire and rescue officers, teachers) have the opportunity to study public health theory in any depth.

Most road safety practitioners are professionals in their own sphere: fire and rescue officers are experts in saving lives, and teachers are experts in their subject and in understanding how children learn at different ages and stages. However, Frank points out that “expertise does not generalise”. We can be experts in one area but well-meaning amateurs in another. However, it can be difficult to acknowledge this when we are fired up with emotion generated by the death of a young person in a road accident.

It is also important to recognise that power is not the same as expertise. Seniority, in an organisation or politically, does not automatically confer an understanding of how to prevent road injuries. Having an understanding of public health theory would help policy makers, funders, managers and practitioners plan more effective interventions.

This leads Frank to his next key message: we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve. The overall goal of road casualty reduction may not be achievable through road safety education, so we should not claim that it is. Rather, we should focus education interventions on education outcomes.

While we may not have much evidence that road safety education works, this is not the same as saying that road safety education does not work. Theory suggests that under some circumstances road safety education can work, so we should be looking for interventions which have this potential and which describe their aims and objectives as clearly as possible.

In these times of austerity the next key message may be the most important – and the most difficult to communicate. We must evaluate what we do, to find out of it is effective – and of course we must learn from the evaluation which means publishing our findings as widely as possible, even if those reveal that we did not get it right. Frank admits that his own work has not always been rigorously evaluated, with the introduction of the hazard perception test being a good example.

When asked what would be needed to prove that the introduction of this test would help new drivers to be safe, his proposals were not followed up. “We need to change the culture so that interventions are properly planned and so that evaluation is included in that planning,” he said. Again, policy makers, funders and managers need to lead the way by expecting evaluation.

So what is the answer to the big question: can road safety education work? Here Professor McKenna is at his most hopeful. Road safety education can work in two possible ways:

  • Directly, from knowledge gain and/or attitude shift. This is theoretically possible but we don’t yet have good enough evidence to support this.
  • Indirectly, as a way of enabling other approaches, such as legislation or the use of engineering solutions. There may be better grounds for pursuing this approach; it is possible that this could have been the means by which education has contributed to the changes in our behaviour with respect to a wide range of health improvements in recent years (including reductions in smoking, increased use of seat belts and installation of smoke alarms). Perhaps the aim of road safety education should be to contribute to long term cultural change, rather than road casualty reduction.

What is clear is that we can’t go on as we are, relying on outdated beliefs, poorly articulated aims and objectives and overly ambitious outcomes. Frank McKenna’s paper should make us all stop and think – can we get it right?

Dr Jenny McWhirter

RoSPA’s Risk Education Adviser

Go to the RAC Foundation’s website for Professor McKenna’s paper.

6 April, 2011

CSEC and LASER: the future of practical safety education

In the wake of Government spending cuts, many valuable projects have been brought to an end – and CSEC (the Child Safety Education Coalition) and LASER (Learning About Safety by Experiencing Risk) were, unfortunately, among them.

The projects were a breath of fresh air in a world increasingly obsessed with litigation and wrapping children up in cotton wool. Their remit was to help children to learn and grow by allowing them to experience risk and get out into the world and enjoy life.

Pete Wilson talks about the Safeside Centre

Launched in 2009, CSEC, a member organisation hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and funded by the Department for Education, encouraged and supported “high quality practical safety education” through everyday activities that helped children learn about danger and how to cope with it.

The LASER project began at RoSPA in 1999 and was funded by the Department of Health. Its ultimate aim was to establish good practice guidelines for interactive safety education schemes. In 2005, it received further funding to undertake a programme of voluntary accreditation for permanent safety centres and annual events.


Looking to the future

Last week, CSEC and LASER members met in Birmingham at the Safeside Centre to feed back on the forum’s work, to report on evaluation of the CSEC project, and to discuss its future.

I have been privileged to be involved with both CSEC and LASER and am sorry that the projects have come to an end in their current form – however, this meeting has uncovered a lot of positivity about the way forward.

We may not have access to Government funding any more – but we should try to see this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. The CSEC and LASER members will be able to set their own agendas, free from the restraints placed on us by funding criteria. And although we will now have to find cash in other ways, I hope that we are well-enough established to be able to keep up the momentum.

Mark Wingfield, MAX Practical Conflict Management, and Jocelyn Meekums, Central Networks, take part in a discussion table

Everyone was very keen to keep CSEC and LASER going in a new form and under a new name, combining the strengths of both projects in order to ensure that children can continue to be challenged and learn to overcome all the obstacles life throws at them.

There are many new areas to tackle: alcohol is becoming a huge problem among young people – not just for health reasons, but because accidental injuries associated with alcohol are on the increase; new technology is appearing all the time, and presenting us with new challenges as well as making life easier; reversing the trend for wrapping children in cotton wool, and not allowing them to take any risks at all. These are just a few of the issues facing society at the moment.

Additionally, there is now scope to expand the work that CSEC and LASER were doing to the whole of the UK, rather than being restricted to England.

Key policy developments

Dr Jenny McWhirter updates the forum on policy developments

Dr Jenny McWhirter, RoSPA’s risk education adviser, presented a round-up of key policy developments at last week’s meeting, looking at many areas of safety affecting children and young people.

She also revealed that, according to a new article in the Lancet on 50-year trends on injuries in all age groups, accidents and fatalities among 15-24-year-olds have fallen the least, making them a very important target group in the UK. The BBC website also carries the article.

It’s easy to forget that young people are consumers too (in ever-growing numbers). Within the sphere of consumer safety, there have been several developments including:

  • A change in the way consumers can seek advice, with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau taking over the Consumer Direct advice service
  • There are now fewer proactive checks undertaken by Trading Standards as a result of funding cuts, which may impact upon the safety of products in the marketplace
  • The recession is having a big effect on consumers, with sales of second-hand goods increasing enormously, meaning more goods are being sold that may be damaged and often without their original packaging and instructions.

Jenny also talked about how changes in transport policy will affect children and young people, including their methods of travelling to school/college – and the effects of cuts being made to school crossing patrols.

Jane Stark, Wakefield Health Care, outlines her successful bicycle project

Of course, one of the biggest stories recently has been the European Court of Justice ruling on car insurance and inequality, when gender is used as a risk indicator. We are particularly worried that this may lead to more young women driving without insurance as it becomes less affordable.

In the workplace, in the wake of Lord Young’s Review, many aspects of occupational health and safety may be affected – and with young people in the workplace, this affects them as much as more seasoned workers.

We don’t yet know how the abolition of Primary Care Trusts will affect the delivery of public health services and whether injury prevention will be given priority.

Feedback from CSEC and LASER members

Cassius delivers the results of the CSEC and LASER member survey

I reported on the results of a survey sent out to all CSEC and LASER members in early January. We received 17 responses from CSEC members and 24 from LASER members and prospective members from around the UK.

Many of the members feel very positive about the projects, remarking that support from LASER has provided excellent opportunities. However, there was a feeling that we should be seeking funding for schemes that are seriously under threat rather than providing remote supervision or inspection. There was a general hope that CSEC and LASER could continue in another form in the future.

CSEC evaluation

The CSEC Evaluation Team (from the University of Nottingham) conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the CSEC project, starting with a literature review and membership survey. They also conducted an international experts review.

Dr Michael Watson from Nottingham University presents the findings of the CSEC evaluation

Michael Watson from the evaluation team presented preliminary results which showed that overall, RoSPA was successful in establishing a functioning coalition in a relatively short space of time and that members of CSEC see their membership as being a clear benefit to them.

Twelve recommendations were made about CSEC’s work, including:

  • CSEC is at a pivotal point in its development, and now needs to reinvent itself as a new organisation and raise its own funds to ensure the valuable work being done is not lost
  • CSEC (or its new incarnation) should undertake a strategic review to re-examine its aims, objectives and key functions to ensure they are still relevant
  • Young people should be more involved through the member organisations
  • The project should promote the Resource Profiler
  • The definition of practical safety education should be expanded upon and publicised.

The group discussion in the afternoon highlighted the positive feeling from CSEC and LASER members that the groups should continue in a new format and under a new name.

Suggestions for funding the project included: membership subscriptions, sponsorship, commercial partners, income generation and LASER accreditation.

Jenny Spink, a youth volunteer with Fairbridge

There were several interesting ideas as to how more young people could become involved in a future project: the promotion of work experience at involved organisations; through youth organisations such as Changemakers and Fairbridge; at events; through schools and websites; and many more.

A discussion took place about the possibility of training happening at future meetings, with the suggestion that it could generate income from non-members. Members thought that training in special needs could be useful; as well as setting learning objectives, use of social networking, child protection, evaluation and fundraising.

Members would very much like to get more young people involved in the future project. This is a feeling echoed by me and my colleagues at RoSPA – and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that the good work done can continue, in the projects’ future incarnation.

Photographs were taken by Esme Collins and Mayank Sharma, young people working with Changemakers and beginning their photography careers.

Cassius Francis

RoSPA’s Youth Liaison Worker

24 March, 2011

RoSPA and youth involvement

RoSPA is constantly trying to raise its profile among young people, and we have been working with Changemakers’ young advocates for some years now. By working with young people, it’s helping us to learn about the benefits that young people can bring to the organisation, contributing to our mission to save lives and reduce injuries.

Our most recent young advocate, Zahida Begum, undertook a project which allowed her to gain an insight into the challenges faced by young parents. RoSPA would not have been able to get this research completed by commissioning a consultant or through any other ongoing RoSPA work.

Her research is now up on the RoSPA website, and makes for interesting reading. Entitled “Investigating home safety amongst young parents”, it aimed to gain an insight into how safety messages could be better tailored to meet the needs of this group.

Zahida, from Saltley in Birmingham, carried out four focus groups and workshops with 26 young people who are or were teenage parents. The sessions were very successful, and the researchers were able to conclude that educating young parents is crucial to raising awareness of potential risks and dangers.

As well as advocating further investigation, the research made the following recommendations:

  • Increase media coverage of home safety messages via channels that will reach teenagers and young people, such as social networking
  • Implement mandatory sessions in secondary education targeting 14-16-year-olds that focus on child and home safety
  • Encourage young parents to design useful gadgets containing safety messages, such as fridge magnets
  • Include information about available safety equipment in the Bounty pack that pregnant women receive
  • Introduce an automated text message service providing information and advice about home safety issues
  • Train young parents to spread safety messages, training and information to their peers.

Attitudes to home safety among teenage parents is not a topic that has been under much scrutiny in the past, and is not well understood – but ensuring that this group of parents has access to basic safety information is vital in preventing injuries to children.

As the research has shown, home safety messages are often not getting through to young parents – either because they are not reaching them at all, or because they do not see the information as relevant to them. A new approach is needed, and Zahida’s research is a great place to start.

Changemakers is a charity based in London, and has been around since 1994. It advocates to policy makers and funders a young person-led approach to action and learning, and supports organisations to develop good practice where young people are concerned.

The organisation bases this aim on the proven experience that giving young people ownership of their actions and learning is highly motivating for both the young people themselves, and the adults and organisations supporting them.

So why did RoSPA get involved? Well, the Future Leaders programme is designed for organisations which want to improve or increase the ways that they engage with young people. Future Leaders was launched in October 2008 and we are now entering the fourth round of the programme.

Previous young advocates who have worked with RoSPA are: Alysha Ong, who undertook a project on young drivers; Rohan Bennett, who took a look at young male drivers; and Vanessa Baxter, who did some work with our water safety department.

I first encountered the Future Leaders programme when I started working at RoSPA – Alysha was working in our road safety department. I carried on with the programme because I saw it as a great way of developing young people’s leadership skills and it works to help RoSPA grow its youth participation work. We are continuing to work to raise our profile among young people, but we’ve got a long way to go.

As RoSPA’s youth liaison officer, I’m planning to establish a young people’s reference group and I hope that RoSPA will also pursue the Hear by Right youth participation award later this year.

I also look after RoSPA’s youth participation Facebook page – come and take a look, and tell us how we can make safety more relevant to young people.

Cassius Francis

RoSPA’s Youth Liaison Officer

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