Reflecting on the video, the public understand what safety is, and how it operates. But we have failed to promote the purpose of the profession – the why?
What is the why?
One of my clients recently told me a story; his young niece asked what he did for a job. His brother was a doctor – a well-respected profession that gets the admiration it deserves. When trying to explain to a seven-year-old what a health and safety professional does he could have talked about telling people off for doing the wrong thing like a policeman, he could have talked about enforcing law like a judge but he simply stated:
“I make sure less people have to go and see your dad.”
He presented himself as the person that helps prevent harm to others. That really hit home to me.
This isn’t new. Laing O’Rourke’s John Green (a key leader in Safety Differently) has for some time been talking about returning health and safety to a state where it is viewed though the lens of ethical responsibility rather than the lens of bureaucracy.
If we stopped leading with compliance and control and reminded ourselves that health and safety isn’t just about covering the backsides of those on the board, but getting people home healthy and safe would it make a difference? Would that allow us to rebrand? Would it be a powerful enough Why?
EY in Australia recently produced a report on ‘Plus One’, their new vision for Health and Safety that emphasises the importance of focusing on the positive impacts made through health and safety.
Now I’m not sure we need another brand like ‘Zero Harm’ but the report states a key driver is ‘healthier, stronger, smarter, better trained people’. To me that seems like an even better why than just getting people home healthy and safe. It implies that we are actually having a positive impact.
If that was the purpose we presented as a profession, at an organisational level and through every conversation we had, would we be able to re-brand and change public opinion?
Many in the profession agree that health and safety needs a re-brand but how do we achieve this? Would it help by starting with the why? I look forward to asking the panel their thoughts on the 22 June and would welcome your feedback as part of that discussion.