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March 27, 2015

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There’s a problem with our safety leadership – please fix

Dave Nicholls, global HSE manager, Wood Group PSN

So here you are. There has been some trigger point in your organisation that has put safety leadership under the microscope. The results of a safety culture survey perhaps, a significant deterioration in safety performance or regulatory enforcement action has highlighted leadership deficiencies. I’m sure you can think of some others.

As safety professionals we are all aware of the importance of leadership when it comes to safety. Conceptually we all get it! Now the challenges start. We have to do something about it – turning concept and theory into something pragmatic and tangible for our organisations.

Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones and are an expert in safety leadership. You already know how to navigate your organisation through the safety leadership maze. Many of us are not safety leadership experts. Just out of curiosity I did a Google search on the term ‘safety leadership’ – it returned 105 million hits! Where do we start? What do we need to consider? I hope my series of blogs will stimulate thought and debate around these questions.

For your organisation to have the best chance of success in improving its safety leadership you need:

  • an understanding of what needs ‘fixing’; and
  • a willingness to change.

I would like to make something clear here. The solution to ‘what needs fixing’ must be right for your organisation – what works in a multinational will not necessarily work in a SME. One size certainly doesn’t fit all.

The nature of the organisational trigger point I mentioned earlier can have a profound impact on understanding what needs fixing and on the organisation’s willingness to change. My next blog will have a look at these trigger points in a bit more detail and also explore your willingness to experiment in your organisations when it’s not clear ‘what needs fixing’.

Dave Nicholls is global HSE manager for Wood Group PSN. He will speaking at the IOSH conference on 16 June at 14.35.

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