I would like to look at the Health & Safety problem from a different point of view - the MANAGEMENT of HEALTH & SAFETY

Risk Management conjures up in one's mind pictures of doom - of tragedy - of living at the edge.

However, risk assessment is nothing new. In everything we do we risk assess - crossing the road, we assess our ability to cross, the speed of the traffic, etc. We have learned to judge our speed of crossing, learned to judge the speed of the traffic and learned to judge a host of minor factors which alter depending on the circumstances.. We are able to do this from Training and Experience.

Your work as a greenkeeper is based on the same learning principles. A balance of training and experience.

This is what I'd like to consider - Management Training

Learning wholly by experience is a painful approach. Nowadays an apprentice learns from attending College and, back at the workplace, being instructed by a craftsman - this allows him to have a shorter learning curve and for experience to be less painful.However, for the more mature members of our profession, opportunities for qualifications did not come along when they were at the apprentice age. These groundsmen can still gain qualifications. There are basically four ways for them to achieve qualifications:

Go back to College with the apprentices e.g. Block Release for 3-6 weeks in the year for two years.

APL - Accreditation of Prior Learning allows the older greenkeeper to be acknowledged for the experience he has achieved, identify and rectify any gaps in knowledge he may have, and give him a professional qualification. Many older greenkeepers are taking advantage of this and gaining a professional qualification.

Distance Learning allows the groundsman to learn at home in his own time and attending College for only 1 week per year. This is very popular with those at the supervisory level. Many older greenkeepers and a lot of ambitious younger members of our profession are taking advantage of this way of learning.

Short Courses are offered by many colleges and Training Groups ranging from 1 to 5 days on a particular subject e.g. ATB Pesticide Update Courses.

These, however, are not an end in themselves but only building blocks. Many professions have now embraced - CPD - Continuing Professional Development.

This means that it is desirable/ necessary to attend update courses every year, perhaps 5 to 8 days per year. These could be short courses in weed control/ mowers/ health & safety/ turf management but could also be attending the IOG Conference. Attending these is not just a 'good idea' but should be a basic part of the Greenkeeper's job. The Annual Conference of BIGGA, far from being looked on as a beano, should be seen for what it is, an essential part of the development for the continuing and future effectiveness of a professional groundsman.

Employers will have to be told/ encouraged/ cajoled to realise that quality management of Sports Turf does not come about by chance and the investment in management training will give the improved playing surface so essential to viability of the modern sports surface.

What has this to do with Health & Safety? A trained operator is a safer operator - a trained manager will provide a safer work environment This has been proven on many occasions.

I would like you to consider the difference between VALUES AND PRIORITIES.

VALUES are things that must be done - there is no choice.

PRIORITY implies that there can be time-schedule slippage or indeed that cancellation could be an option.

When you get up out of bed late - you must wash, shave, dress, have breakfast, read the paper, kiss your spouse, get in the car, drive to work.

Which of these are VALUES and which PRIORITIES?

Dress, kiss your spouse, get in car, drive to work, are VALUES, - THESE MUST BE DONE

Wash, shave, have breakfast, read the paper are PRIORITIES, which CAN BE DONE, CAN BE DELAYED or can even BE CANCELLED - depending on their importance to you.

HEALTH & SAFETY IS A VALUE NOT A PRIORITY - the safety of your staff and yourself must not be compromised at any time.

TRAINING OF MANAGEMENT IS A VALUE NOT A PRIORITY. Sadly, most employers do not agree.

Anyone who cuts grass thinks he is a greenkeeper , but we know that good husbandry of Sports Turf is as difficult a job as any profession and only with the proper professional approach will we be able to produce what our customer needs - a good playing surface for the maximum playing time per year - and provide it whilst still looking after the safety of the operator, other employees, the general public and the environment.