EHS Congress: What cultures do we need to embed within organisations and how do we implement them?
SHP joined health and safety practitioners from all over Europe and beyond in Berlin for a networking and conference event. Andrew Sharman, CEO of RMS Switzerland, Chaired the congress and offers his summary of the event…
“As Chairman of the second edition of our EHS Congress I was delighted to welcome 258 delegates who came together to explore the future of environment, health and safety at work with 32 world-class speakers and four interactive panel debates generating almost one hundred questions from the audience.
“Over the two days of congress we came to realise that the world of work has changed, and so too our approach as practitioners must change. EHS is so much more than the acronym suggests, and our program included topics as diverse as Operational Excellence, Mental Health, Wellbeing, Leadership, and Culture.
“An oft-used indicator of safety performance, the Total Recordable Incident Rate (‘TRIR’), was discussed by ERM, whose recent research revealed that whilst TRIR for many organisations has reduced, the fatality rate remains the same. The conclusion is clear: the way we are working isn’t working,
“As our keynote speaker Professor Erik Hollnagel underlined, if we want to change this picture, we must strike a balance between System I and System II approaches in order to fully develop the resilience potential of our organisations. There will always be a need for structure – management systems, policy and governance provide the framework on which great EHS can flourish – though as our panel discussions reflected, we need to realise that too much of this System I style can leave organisations feeling overwhelmed and stifle progress. A Systems II approach, hallmarked by a desire to look beyond binary targets such as zero injuries and consider safety from a more person-centric perspective, can help us move off the performance plateau that many organisations find themselves on. Through a series of interactive discussions with the audience, it could be seen that commitment to driving change was robust amongst participants.
“During discussions on the elements of leadership that are necessary to make the shift, our expert panels identified the need for three things: (i) true connection – practitioners becoming real business partners, speaking the language of the business, in order to (ii) effectively influence others to support and drive change through (iii) collaboration.
“These soft skills, though, are in fact the harder ones to master – though the Sandhurst Military Academy motto “Serve to lead” may offer a clue as to how we might proceed.
“We were reminded that people don’t adopt something that someone else invented. They want to feel part of something, so we as leaders need to be more inclusive, more engaging, more human. Without doubt we need to be more positive in our language, our communication, and our approach when it comes to EHS at work, though this doesn’t mean turning our approach into something that is peppered with spin and the latest buzz words. Rather, stripping back our own approach to a leadership style that is natural, authentic, and, above all, curious will help us to boost understanding and create meaningful bonds with our stakeholders. Our curiosity is well-served through asking questions – specific questions help us find information, diagnostic questions help us understand where there’s an opportunity to help, and formative questions allow that help to be provided. (Note: I tackle curiosity in my latest feature for SHP in the New Rules of Safety series).
“In drawing the congress to a close, Phil James – Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management – engaged us in a dynamic session which concluded that leadership is about “doing the right thing”. My final reflection is that in Berlin at our EHS Congress this week, 258 people came together to do exactly that.”
Keep a look out on SHP for more detailed coverage from the event over the coming weeks.
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