BBC Radio 4: "The Briefing Room - Why Are The British Armed Forces Short Of Personnel?"

... Bang On!

I have a feeling that although "Safety" is an institutional bugaboo it is not actually a personal one, and that an institution reacting to safety threats is actually a disincentive at the personal level...!
You'll like this one then
Bike-share schemes improve safety - helmet laws do not

More safety comes from human behaviours adapting to a higher population exposed to risk than from specific mandate safety equipment!

The recommendation for helmet legislation seems to be misguided. The most likely outcome is that fewer people will cycle than without the law, leading to lost health and environmental benefits, together with increased injury rates from risk compensation and reduced safety in numbers.
 
The issue comes up when Safety becomes a chain of command or an institutional responsibility and the individual loses agency and interest in the whole affair.

Safety should be a personal matter and when the organisation says "Safety first" and then stipulates how it is to be done, the individual becomes passive baggage.

The key point to haul in is this: "the dangers of confusing compliance with real safety."
Best articulated here: ‘Dirty Jobs’ guy says Safety Third is “a conversation worth having” | 2012-06-25 | ISHN

Though massively suffering personally from no.s 5 & 9 (with hints of 3 & 7), this summary is quite useful on how cognitive biases in risk can create worse situations.

Nine cognitive biases risk managers should know - Raconteur

The BMJ point in no.6 about risk compensation is quite contentious and there are those who don't like the idea that whilst individuals may benefit the herd suffers.
Risk reduction is not like a vaccine, increasing herd immunity. Each individual needs to develop and exercise their risk "muscle" personally.

Whilst accidents, life changing injuries and fatalities are individually awful and horrific for those concerned and their families, there is also a strong social learning element for others, after all we didn't evolve because of Time outs for Safety during Sabretooth attacks, rather from making sure we got our risk prevention and mitigation in first.....

E2A: bit like teachers, those who can't, do safety instead...
Safety is everybody's business - however we need to accept that people have different levels of intelligence, physical ability, common sense, and so on. People may be fatigued or under stress.

I think this is a better list of cognitive biases:

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The argument about cyclists and wearing helmets being mandatory (since when? - I am always seeing cyclists without them) is down to helmets not being seen as cool. Remember there is a societal cost as well as a monetary one to preventable deaths and serious injuries.

Your last paragraph implies that lessons are learnt from accidents instead them being attributed to luck.

Safety measures turn a catastrophic event into a learning opportunity.
 
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It is interesting to watch this thread - but what can be done (realistically) to improve recruitment and retention, especially in the Army?
Perversely, reduce NTT times.

12 months is taking the p*ss. If a young lad has done less than 6 years he should be able to get out within the month. Less provision for units stood up for operations (ie you can leave afterwards).

Get 'em gone. Before the worst of them infect the others with their malaise. Worse, the 12 months can grate on a young lad to the point he's pretty p*ssed off too sign off in the first place, and after 12 months he's even more annoyed.

Let 'em go. Hopefully, they wont be so annoyed as to not give the Reserves a go* and also if it turns out to be a bit pump in civvie street then have a swift path to get them back in. Ideally withing the month.

Ie a young lad gets threaders, signs off and is gone in thirty days. he realises he'd made a mistake and rejoins as if nothing every happened (bar he's got a 30 day gap in his service extending his full career).

Obviously the rejoin procedure would need tweaking for those who had been out for a year or so, and subject to vacancies.

* reserves. Why can't the moving of a regular to reserve not be a simple matter of a posting order? even if it does mean dropping rank/re-trading or the like?
 
Good observations, but wrong conclusion my friend...

The current H & S system in UK grew out of the industrial sector and was/is firmly embedded in the unions/management mindset and the bureaucratic approach to risk management. This has resulted in an overweening, expensive and inefficient culture which has had only a limited effect on risk management ( see Grenfell,,,!)

"H & S" as practised in the UK is based upon the principle of the application of a "safe method of work" derived from a "risk analysis" the task in question. Like many things, this looks like a perfectly sensible solution to which nobody could object to.. until you see how it was implemented! At this point, it needs to be pointed out that there is nothing new here.. people have been killed and injured at work since man started to lasso Wooly Mammoths, and the issue of who is responsible is as old as the hills. Even in slave societies, there was at least a marginal value in not getting your best or strongest slaves damaged unnecessarily! The bottom line is that there is always a risk in any activity that has to be managed to ensure it is "as low as reasonably possible". In other words managing risk requires thought and an understanding of the context and purpose of the activity.

The problem with the modern approach to H & S is that it does not acknowledge the nature of the element of judgement and seeks to impose bureaucratic solutions which are often incapable of dealing with the issues. Because the process of risk assessment involves knowledge and judgement, attributes not well handled by bureaucracies, that we end up with solutions that are inefficient, expensive and often ineffective. The fact that risk has always been a point of issue between the leaders and the led has also made it an attractive area for those with a political or other ulterior motive to become involved..!

The assessment and taking of risk is a core element of any activity. At the end of the day someone needs to make a decision that the potential advantages of an action outweigh the potential risks. For a society to operate well, it needs to try and ensure that the "someone" is capable of making the best call in these circumstances. This is not an easy thing to achieve, involving as it does a fine distinction between recklessness and timidity. Good societies need to breed these individuals and have trust in them. The danger is not accepting this reality and listening to the voices of those who would challenge leadership, but not accept responsibility themselves!

As soon as you see statements being made regarding "zero risk tolerance approach" or "Never Again" or other such patent nonsense being spouted, then the "Bullshit Alert" signs need to start flashing. Many of our current morale issues are as a result of media and political witch hunting activities which are not only misguided, but fundamentally dangerous.

War fighting is all about managing risks and taking decisions in uncertain conditions. It needs skill and courage by all concerned, and sadly it does not always come off. Flying aircraft in a battle zone is a risky business and there are always consequences. I happened to be around in all the circumstances you quote above, and frankly the only other option at the time would be to have grounded all these aircraft or remove the chain gun from the vehicles exposing the force to an even greater risk. There was no evidence to support such a decision, and this still remains..

We as a society need to start to understand the difference between boldness and recklessness, to support the first and condemn the second.
I agree with much of that - although I have never been involved in aircraft maintenance I think the post Nimrod, post Heddon Cave places far too much emphasis on procedures and red tap, and not enough on personal responsibility and sound judgement.

Going back to the three things I mentioned - I have no recollection of what the Chain Gun issue was, but it should have been dealt with before getting to that stage. An operational theatre is not the place for trials, safety modifications, and other stuff. The Hercules was going to be operated in tactical low level roles, therefore Explosive Suppressant Form might have been considered as a reasonable in service modification. As for the Nimrod, the AAR capability was urgently designed and installed during the Falklands War, but was it ever reviewed after the war? Was enough maintenance done and checking of valves and so on? What could have been done to mitigate that risk?

As someone who did sustain a serious injury as a child, and has not achieved my potential because of it, I was somewhat annoyed/upset/something else by the suggestion that safety could be ignored, as killing off a few weaklings and random other improves the herd. I will say it again - safety depends on individuals exercising sound judgement and having the courage and integrity to act. Does the system back them?
 
Interesting replies and to be fair the retention issue has always been within the top 3, along with the recruitment process and once in, the work to life tempo ratio can be under estimated by many, but not all.

I'm currently non-deployable, by choice of corp and I've worked alongside RN & the Army, only previously briefly worked with the RAF in NI. And speaking to many from various ranks its the changes, treatment and expectations are mixed.

Overall, the HMF package is good however were all responsible for our own actions and of course inactions, and that starts from the very top.


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Fitness of kids is sui generis. My kids have been fortunate to have benefitted from CEA and go to a decent boarding school which focusses both on academics and sport. Indeed, I would say my son is fitter than I at the same age; in spite of going to a rugby-mad school in NZ, we didn't go to the gym each evening; we didn't have dietitians, physios or fitness plans. Our gym had wall bars and a vaulting box, or two. If our kids had gone to the local high school/grammar school in the Lake District they would have had a lot of sport and would have a pretty good level of fitness. Yes, some things change - smart phones etc do encourage cabbagism, but let's not tar all teenagers with the same generalistic brush.

Here's a generalism: fat parents = fat kids.
Does the rising tide of obesity in children and young people not suggest that the old fashioned punitive approach to PE (the less capable are bullied and terrorised, and the sporty types are allowed to get away with things) needs to be reconsidered?
 
Does the rising tide of obesity in children and young people not suggest that the old fashioned punitive approach to PE (the less capable are bullied and terrorised, and the sporty types are allowed to get away with things) needs to be reconsidered?
I'd prefer ready meals and other unhealthy stodge is made more expensive and cooking from scratch encouraged.
 
It needs all sorts of things. Sports could be a great way of teaching the importance of practice and hard work, and some effort made to generally teach and coach. I have already mentioned my own problems with unmarked cross country running routes, with no maps or directions.

Maybe teachers should pick teams for sports so nobody gets left last every time? Maybe they could do that for other subjects - after all when you start a new job, you cannot pick your workmates?

Good point about cookery. However, like sports on TV, does it make people think "I could never do that" and discourage them from trying?
 
I agree with much of that - although I have never been involved in aircraft maintenance I think the post Nimrod, post Heddon Cave places far too much emphasis on procedures and red tap, and not enough on personal responsibility and sound judgement.

Going back to the three things I mentioned - I have no recollection of what the Chain Gun issue was, but it should have been dealt with before getting to that stage. An operational theatre is not the place for trials, safety modifications, and other stuff. The Hercules was going to be operated in tactical low level roles, therefore Explosive Suppressant Form might have been considered as a reasonable in service modification. As for the Nimrod, the AAR capability was urgently designed and installed during the Falklands War, but was it ever reviewed after the war? Was enough maintenance done and checking of valves and so on? What could have been done to mitigate that risk?

As someone who did sustain a serious injury as a child, and has not achieved my potential because of it, I was somewhat annoyed/upset/something else by the suggestion that safety could be ignored, as killing off a few weaklings and random other improves the herd. I will say it again - safety depends on individuals exercising sound judgement and having the courage and integrity to act. Does the system back them?
Currently the system doesn't due to a number of legal and societal changes since the 1990s. The intent of HSAW74 has been diluted and redirected.
One of the biggest changes I have seen in my industry over the last 15 years is the change from HSE trainer - (helping the individual gain the knowledge and skills to tackle work challenges - an empowerment function) to HSE Enforcer - (sanctioning the individual for errors and deviation from written procedures - disempowering and keeping the safety in a job)
A quite astute safety manager once said that safety isn't a black art and if you can't educate people to do it themselves, you risk creating a cartel or self licking lolipop.

I'm sorry your dreams got pissed on and you had invested so much in them that you couldn't pick new ones and still feel their loss.
Still not a valid justification for advocating prizes for all in the rather big boys game that is life.
 
Currently the system doesn't due to a number of legal and societal changes since the 1990s. The intent of HSAW74 has been diluted and redirected.
One of the biggest changes I have seen in my industry over the last 15 years is the change from HSE trainer - (helping the individual gain the knowledge and skills to tackle work challenges - an empowerment function) to HSE Enforcer - (sanctioning the individual for errors and deviation from written procedures - disempowering and keeping the safety in a job)
A quite astute safety manager once said that safety isn't a black art and if you can't educate people to do it themselves, you risk creating a cartel or self licking lolipop.

I'm sorry your dreams got pissed on and you had invested so much in them that you couldn't pick new ones and still feel their loss.
Still not a valid justification for advocating prizes for all in the rather big boys game that is life.
I think we are in risk of agreement, as I share the concern that safety becomes a matter of compliance than one of individual then it risks accidents as people stop thinking about it. When accidents do happen then there is a risk of a witch hunt against someone who deviated from the procedures ever so slightly rather than cause and effect type thinking.

I have a thread about my Self Sabotage. The lessons I needed to overcome my major stumbling blocks have come recently. Hopefully not too late.

I do not think I have ever advocated prizes for all, but I do advocate a fair playing field, recognition of biases, and an opportunity for people to have an attempt at things. Society, and the Armed Forces, need people doing all sorts of different jobs with different skills, so why do we insist of telling kids if they are good at kicking a ball and/or putting other kids down they are a success, but other are not?
 
Continuing on the theme of risk: Society Is a Megaphone for Risk

People know how to make information interesting and they appear to do so adaptively. This may come down to language's evolutionary roots as a social adaptation, which appears to trump its utility as a mechanism for communicating ecological information (Redhead & Dunbar, 2013). Communication may be first about providing social cues, second about communicating risks ('Fire!', ‘Run!’, 'Aaaagh') and only third about providing an accurate picture. So it is in brains built by the sausage-fingered hands of evolution.

Also note the comments regarding social media and amplification - and points earlier on this thread regarding dripping on websites and social media.
 
And surprisingly balanced and well informed!
Apart from the army apparently owning no military hardware at all, and RAF 'planes' (FFS!) of all types/capabilities being compared to individual types of RN major combatant vessels only, the LPDs being cited in the text but not shown in the graphic, MOD civilian staff numbers omitted, ...

I'd also be intersted to know the source of the assertion regarding Norway's vulnerability to Russian pressure! There are no NATO assurance measures for Norway, because Norway hasn't felt the need to ask for any.

And why are the RN wearing Israeli berets?
 
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Apart from the army apparently owning no military hardware at all, and RAF 'planes' (FFS!) of all types/capabilities being compared to individual types of RN major combatant vessels only, the LPDs being cited in the text but not shown in the graphic, MOD civilian staff numbers omitted, ...

I'd also be intersted to know the source of the assertion regarding Norway's vulnerability to Russian pressure! There are no NATO assurance measures for Norway, because Norway hasn't felt the need to ask for any.

And why are the RN wearing Israeli berets?
Ah I couldn’t get pictures, I’m on DII.
 
I know it's the Grauniad, but some interesting numbers none-the-less.

MoD may duck decision on army numbers in review
The paper that slams us at every opportunity for:

The recruitment of ‘child soldiers’, along with their cronies at Child
Soldiers International; comparing a foundation college that educates under 18’s in a military environment, while allowing them the right to discharge at any point with AK47 wielding 12 year olds in Angola.

Consitantly slamming us for trying to take advantage of deprived kids by recruiting in (our traditional recruiting grounds) council estates and big cities. Potentially denying those same kids a way out and the opportunity of ‘social mobility’ that seems to be a big agenda point currently!

I would rather wipe my bottom with it than read it :)
 
Why are the armed forces short of personnel?

1, The government keeps sacking them.

2, People don't want to risk their lives by being sent to unnecessary wars, when there is zero danger to the UK.

3, People have a fondness for their arms and legs and have seen how the conservatives treat disabled people.

4, People have more access to information than at any other time in history. They see the big picture.

5, Its not as easy as it once was to manipulate the average civilian. See answer 4.

6, They are white and live in Luton.

7, People have seen the falture of political post war planning in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and do not want to risk their lives for lost causes.

8 People have heard about Deepcut as well as things such as Snatch land rovers. They know that the army and government wont take care of them.

9, People have seen the latest politically correct, army recruitment video.
 
The Armed Forces wont be short of personnel for long - I've seen the adverts.

Any time now 50,000 women and Islamic heroes are stampeding their way to the recruiting office doors.

We don't need poor, white kids from the North or Scotland anymore. Which is lucky, because they're all male, pale and stale. And potential rapists.
 

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