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Corporate Manslaughter Concentrates the Mind of the CEO Wonderfully
Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach

- Accident Investigation is responsible, effective and helps the bottom line.-

“On the continent,” says Lorna Ramsay, Director of the TOP-SET® Investigation System, referring to Europe, there’s corporate manslaughter. The CEO can be put in jail if people are injured or killed on-the-job. This concentrates the mind of the CEO wonderfully,” she added.

This statement got my attention. How about you?

I’m interested in the use of ‘gut feeling’ or intuition in the workplace, among other skills considered “soft,” and I’d heard Lorna taught engineers who work in nuclear plants, the oil and gas, explosives and other high hazard industries, how to stay safe by using their intuition - as part of using the TOP-SET® Investigation System.

Perfect, I thought, high IQ employees using their EQ to keep alive. It’s for sure in today’s rapidly-changing workplace, companies all over the world are finding intellect alone is not enough. TOP-SET® teaches that indeed it isn't.

As to the focus of the CEO’s attention, legislation has a way of encouraging ethics and humanitarian values in a corporation where exhortation cannot. Some would call this the “soft” side of business, but why wait to be forced to do something good that also positively affects the “hard” side of business – employee retention, morale, risk management, team building, productivity and ultimately the bottom line?


I’ve been investigating the use of “soft” skills to bring results in businesses around the world.

· Tom McDorman, managing director of Western Digital (Malaysia) Sdn. Bh.d, believes “emotional intelligence-style management techniques” can bolster faltering Asian manufacturers. Productivity at his Kuala Lumpur factory jumped 20% after he began cultivating the ‘soft’ side of his workers …

· University of Queensland professor Neal Ashkanasy maintains that “It’s an easy target in terms of the softness and fluffiness, but … failure to recognize emotions in the workplace [can] reflect in a demoralized workforce.”

· An article in “The Namibia Economist: Custodian of Business Intelligence,” by a Namibian economist says, “Forecasting is a dangerous exercise and I shall not give myself out as an expert on this terrain. What I’m saying is based purely on my personal gut feeling …”

· An Australian news article began “Top leaders are getting in touch with their emotions and those of their staff as intuition and emotional intelligence become the hottest management buzzwords.”

And teaching incident investigation is what Lorna does for a living. She and her husband, David, live in Scotland, and run the TOP-SET® Incident Investigation System ( ). They teach how to investigate industrial accidents all over the world, and for some very serious industries —explosives, pharmaceuticals, paper, shipping, nuclear engineering, medicine, gold mining, etc. as well as the emergency services and the medical sector. They and the TOP-SET® team also go into the field to investigate for clients all over the world.

The most rewarding outcome of their work is the companies find that being humanitarian affects their bottom line. What they learn through TOP-SET® saves lives, increases business performance, enhances the company’s reputation, increases profitability, complies with regulation, and prevents and predicts similar occurrences. And it also affects employee morale and attitude.

“When an employer sends his managers to our seminars,” says Lorna, “they know the company cares about them. What we teach – and we’re educators, not trainers, – spills over in other areas of the workplace. TOP-SET® is a ‘thinking system.’ We teach our clients to investigate, i.e., to think their way through what is really a complex problem. We’re ‘problem-solvers.’ And once you can analyze what happened, and learn from it, you can prevent and eventually predict.”


“Go back to when you were in an unfamiliar situation,” Lorna tells workers in high-hazard industries. “Think of how a dog or child behaves. When my dog runs down to the beach in the morning and sees a rubbish bag, she’ll sniff, circle it, even bare her teeth until she’s sure it’s safe. Well that’s what these engineers need to learn how to do, to 'sense' when something has changed.”

“When you’re working in a high-hazard industry,” she says, “if you go into a work situation, and there’s something coming at you that makes you feel funny - an almost imperceptible smell, a feeling, in an explosive factory it could be a change in humidity - just some change that you sense, rather than see, don’t ignore it. If you get a gut feeling something isn’t right, pay attention to that, act on that. And intuition can be honed by just practising and noticing.”


Lorna says her major interest is what makes people ‘tick.’ This includes helping people understand themselves better, work together in groups and teams, and also human error - why do people have accidents and why some people more than others?

“I’m interested in helping companies understand their people in both normal working situations as well as in crises,” she says. “Clients everywhere - Thailand, Amsterdam, Germany, the US, Australia, South Africa - people are interested in learning more about themselves and others, and how to work better together, how to work more safely, more harmoniously, more productively.”

Lorna met recently with two partners she’d introduced because they were so different. “The steam was rising,” she said. “One of them wanted details, figures. The intuitive partner kept forgetting to tell her partner two days in advance that something was coming up.”

“When you’re under stress,” Lorna says, “you fall into your hole,” and Lorna knows people under stress. “People aren’t just different,” she added, “They’re more different than you can ever imagine.”

But as with the partners above, being reminded of their differences and how valuable these differences are to their business - having awareness raised - helps get back on track. At the end of the day, it's understanding people and helping them manage themselves which is key.


“We help companies move forward and innovate in a time of perpetual change; TOP-SET® is specifically a thinking system, a key to investigating accidents, to solving that particular type of problem. But the companies often ask us to assist them in thinking their way through other issues, to help them create, and to innovate.” Lorna says. “It’s very successful.

I would imagine a programme such as this one would have wide-ranging, positive effects in an organization, and Lorna confirmed that it does.

“We’ve found when a company is honestly investigating an incident, and the regulatory bodies are aware of that, then they’re less likely to prosecute. The most important thing, though, is that employees feel valued and cared about when such attention is paid to their safety. And it works. It’s now safer to be on an oil rig than in your own home.”

Is it safe at your workplace, physically and emotionally?

About the Author

©Susan Dunn, , The EQ Coach. To learn more about Top-set®/Incident Investigation System, go here: . For free incident/accident investigation advice, go here: .

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