‘Being driven by a purpose or a mission that feeds your needs and expectations helps create a safe environment,’ SHP meets Bertrand Gibert
Ahead of EHS Congress, taking place in Berlin in September, SHP catches up with speaker Bertrand Gibert, Vice President Environment Health & Sustainability at BioMérieux, to discuss the changing role of the safety professional and why a motivated workforce makes a safe workforce.
How did you get into safety and what do you enjoy most about your job?
Bertrand Gibert (BG): “I am a manufacturing engineer by training, with an emphasis on environment; one of my first projects was to build an environmental management system and quickly we discovered it was relevant to step back and embark safety in the process.
“It was about 20 years ago and my faith in taking care of the planet and the people upon it is still very noble and gives a lot of sense to make an impact.”
How do you think the role of a safety professional has changed throughout your career and what does the future hold?
(BG): “It used to be a very technical job only, very specialised, and somehow a stand-alone occupation mainly driven by regulations. Today it is a job that requires soft skills; technical skills are far from being enough in succeeding.
“Whatever is the safety role level of seniority, it requires dialogue with stakeholders, consultation, feedback, and co-building initiatives. The job is also more complex with new, developing, or emerging risks such as psychosocial risks, working from home and musculoskeletal disorders.”
You state that you are driven by building and nurturing organisations that motivate people, structure community of practices. Why do you think a motivated workforce makes for a safe workforce?
(BG): “Being driven by a purpose or a mission that feeds your needs and expectations helps create a safe environment in which people dare to execute, take actions for good. Then, you belong to something which is bigger than your own role and responsibilities and you evolve in an environment that you belong to; this includes interacting with your people, environment and acting in a safe way, where people think ‘being safe,’ before doing good.”
In your opinion, what makes a good safety ambassador within an organisation and what should you be looking for when appointing someone for that position?
(BG): “A good safety ambassador is someone who walks the talk, whatever their job or seniority, and focuses more on the safety performance (day-to-day efforts) than the results (numbers).
“Safety is a domain about people and so results are the consequence of what you have built or not built. I like to say, ‘inaction is action”. Many leaders minimise their micro-messages. They may send in few words or one attitude; they may have a huge impact on the safety mindset. I remember a leader who once told me, ‘I do not want to be best-in-class in safety, because today we are doing enough (i.e., my injury frequency rates have decreased) and I need to improve other areas, such as non-quality cost and efficiency’.
“The safety culture he built was perceived to be minimal by his teams and he achieved the injury rates fitted with a number; he was the same person who later could not explain some injury peaks and safety degradation in his scope, except by formulating people take shortcuts and should think before acting. I like to appoint safety ambassadors who speak the truth, even if the circumstances are painful; leaders who are sensitive about details, like employees’ suggestions and complains; they often succeed in creating safety and overperform generally in their scope of work.”
You will be speaking about BioMérieux’s route to best-in-class safety performance at EHS Congress in September. What can you tell me about that journey and what will delegates learn from your session at the event?
(BG): “EHS Congress is the place to hear from others about their EHS anecdotes and practices. Overall, we all have the same challenge to create a safe workplace; I will humbly share how an organisation with a strong purpose to help save lives, driven by a long-term vision and an entrepreneurial mindset evolved from a safety compliance only approach to people empowerment dynamics, in order to make everyone accountable for safety.”
Hear more from Bertrand Gibert at the 2022 EHS Congress, taking place in Berlin from 13-14 September. Her session, ‘BioMérieux en-route to best-in-class safety performance,’ takes place on Day two of the conference.
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