Assistant Editor, SHP & IFSEC Global

December 3, 2021

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Culture And Behaviours

Work as imagined vs. work as done

On day one of EHS Congress 2021, which took place on 9-10 November, an expert panel including Global EHS/HSE Head at Siemens, Ralph Franke, Head of HSE at Hydro’s European Extrusion Business, Andre Fey, and Associate Consultant at Perrier, Myriam Perrier, hosted by Andrew Sharman, debated the topic of ‘work as imagined vs. work as done’, SHP summarises the key take-aways from the session…

Work as imagined vs. work as done panelSiemens’ Global EHS/HSE Head, Ralph Franke began the discussion by sharing his take on why safety procedures in the workplace are so frequently not met. He argued that, often, workers don’t understand the procedures they are being instructed to follow, or, in some cases, can’t comprehend how the practice fits their specific tasks.

Ralph argued that, because of this, businesses need to understand of the complexity of the work their employees undertake.

Unsurprisingly, global procedures often do not cater to local needs, therefore those in charge of procedure implementation need to start open conversation with employees to fully assess relevant risks.

Andre Fey, Head of HSE at Hydro’s European Extrusion Business, went on to comment that, because procedures are put together to accommodate workers across the world, they are often heavily detailed and standardised.

“Compliance is a legal requirement, but the benefit lies somewhere else”, said Andre. “Employers need to ensure that both themselves and their workers are fully aware of why safety procedures are important, and the potential consequences that could occur if they aren’t followed.”

Perrier Associate Consultant, Myriam Perrier, shared a similar view, arguing that businesses need to comprehend the intricacies of work they are implementing procedures for.

“Rules and procedures become so detailed and complicated, they are no longer about the work being done, they are simply procedures.”

Host Andrew Sharman, CEO of RMS Switzerland and Chair of EHS Congress, then posed a case study to the panel: A new employee enters the workplace, receives a safety induction, and is told to follow the rules including wearing the correct PPE. He then walks into his first day he sees that nobody else is wearing PPE. He has signed an agreement stating he would adhere to the guidelines, however, no one else is – how can employees deal with that social pressure?

Ralph argued that employers need to first find out why staff aren’t wearing the correct PPE – are they too hot? Do they not see the need for it? Talking to employees directly about why wearing PPE is a crucial first step in ensuring procedures are followed.

“The issue for me is, the more detailed rules are, the more difficult they are to adapt to reality”, said Andre. “Rules are written with the assumption that their implementation will run smoothly instantaneously, which is rarely the case.”

“Employers should enforce the framework of how things should be done but with a degree of flexibility, considering the unique needs of their workers.”

Click here for more from EHS Congress on SHP.

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