Dame Judith Hackitt & Andrew Sharman’s 5 tips for getting business to ‘own’ HSE

I recently delivered a webinar with my colleague Dame Judith Hackitt for Barbour EHS and SHP Online to share ideas on how to engage senior leaders in owning health and safety at work.

We were amazed to find more than 800 people from around the world joining us online for the one hour session and were impressed with the level of engagement from attendees. Sincere thanks to everyone who joined us.

The webinar came from concepts that Dame Judith and I have set down in a new book, ‘Mind Your Own Business: What Your MBA Should Have Taught You About Workplace Health & Safety. It is aimed squarely at enhancing operational leaders understanding and impact in workplace safety.

There were several participants who felt senior managers considered health and safety ‘the job’ of H&S advisors, rather than operational leaders, and they wanted to change that.

Some people suggested the book would help them to assist managers in finding the balance between managing operations and safety. Others felt they lacked the ‘language of business’ or authority to challenge senior people and hoped the book might help.

We were inundated with over a hundred extra questions that we didn’t have time to answer online during the live Q&A. In this article, we seek to cover off five of the key themes practitioners raised in their questions:

1. Stop Looking Good and start the chat!

Leaders don’t really want to be staring at Looking Good Indexes (aka LTIFR charts) – they just don’t yet know what they need.  Next time you present your monthly update, skip the numbers, look ahead and get straight onto the activities you are working on to create safety at work rather than looking over your shoulder to prevent recurrence of past accidents.

Go for dialogue not nodding heads. Use questions to pull leaders in and create discussion. Show why good safety is good for your business and shift from it being a priority issue to a (core) value (-adding activity).

2. Focus on people, not procedures

The insurance industry, accident lawyers and the media have created a culture of fear for businesses today.  While an effective risk management system is important, real change comes from placing people at the heart of what you do.

This doesn’t mean posters telling them they’re responsible for their own safety, but rather leaders asking sincerely what workers feel needs to be done to improve safety at work.  Other questions (shared by our webinar audience) can include: “How safe do you feel right now?  Why is that? or “If I were working with you right now, what would I need to know to be safe?

3. Stop ignoring the silent Hof H&S

With over half a million new cases of Occupational Ill-Health popping up every year at work in the UK it’s time for practitioners and leaders to do more.

This isn’t about playing at Doctors & Nurses. 80% of all new cases are split evenly between musculoskeletal and stress/psycho-social risks and there’s so much brilliant free resource out there to get you started on these issues. It would be crazy to ignore how much impact can be made quickly in most organizations right now.

4. Culture grows top-down

Workers are more likely to be committed to safety, and motivated to act when they see leaders genuinely walking the talk.

Consider eliminating ‘safety walks’ and instead have leaders talking about safety as a core pillar of the business. Leave the BBS observation cards and audits on the desk and have leaders get to know the people on the shop-floor and share a little of themselves too.

5. Safety is a team game

In our experience, it’s rarely a commitment to safety that’s lacking amongst operational leaders.  The bigger challenge for most is being able to communicate on safety in a way that is meaningful, feels authentic, and engages workers with an inspiration not just to think about safety at work but to see how safety contributes to the success of the business, the department, the team, and the individual.  No one style of leadership is best – you’ll do well to cultivate a blend of transactional, servant and transformational leaders.

So there you have it, five steps to get things moving in your organization today.  And here’s a bonus: a great starting point is to ask leaders just why safety is important to them – help them to cut through the corporate spin and the words they think they should be saying and get it coming from the heart – then ask them to get on the floor and share this with the workforce.  No script, no checklist, no routine.  Put simply, we call it minding your own business.

Watch Andrew Sharman’s TEDx talk: ‘Evolving fear into function’

Professor Andrew Sharman teaches leadership and safety culture at the European Centre for Executive Development (CEDEP) in Fontainebleau, France and consults to Fortune 500 organizations around the world.  Find out more at www.RMSswitzerland.com

*SHPonline readers can grab a copy of Judith Hackitt and Andrew Sharman’s new book Mind Your Own Business: What your MBA should have taught you about workplace health & safety with a whopping 25% discount using the code MINDSHP25 at www.FromAccidentstoZero.com

Free download: Legislation Update eBook

The last six months have seen some major publications in health and safety, not least the long awaited ISO 45001 with a promise of transforming workplace practices globally. Discover more about this ‘game changing’ standard and what else has been happening in the safety industry from a legislation standing point to ensure you are not a laggard on the topic.

To ensure you are up to date click here.


Categories: Culture And Behaviours, Feature, Features, Leadership and innovation, New Safety and Health, Safety Management, Workplace psychology

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