Director, Acre Frameworks

Author Bio ▼

With over 12 years’ experience recruiting senior Health and Safety professionals across the globe, Anna has recently partnered with Acre in support of their strategy to add value to their clients and the wider Health and Safety profession.

Focussing on the assessment and development of behavioural competencies in the profession, Anna has conducted a series of in-depth interviews with industry leaders to define the competencies critical for success and create the Acre Frameworks Competency Framework.

This framework is the foundation for a range of assessment and development offerings aimed at assisting individuals and teams to improve their performance. In addition to having extensive recruitment experience, Anna is also an accredited psychometric assessor and trained competency interviewer.

June 7, 2016

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Does health and safety need to work out its why?

Ahead of her talk at Safety & Health Expo on whether health and safety needs a re-brand, Anna Keen, Acre Frameworks, asks whether health and safety needs to work out its why?

In three weeks’ time I shall be taking to the stage at the Safety and Health Expo to chair a panel on ‘Rebranding Health and Safety’.  As part of my research I stumbled across a TED Talk by Simon Sinek about how some of the world’s most inspiring companies and leaders sell themselves, not by what they do, but why they do it.  Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ explains why Martin Luther King, The Wright Brothers and Apple all managed to succeed where others have failed. The basis of it is that they all promote why they do things rather than what they do.

They know their purpose and they inspire others to believe it.  Simply put, Sinek believes people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.  By thinking, acting and communicating your purpose you can get people to join your cause, buy your product and inspire them into action.

How does this work?  Well, I will leave Simon to explain the science but it did get me thinking; what is health and safety’s “why?”

Earlier this year we took to the streets of London with a video camera and asked the public for their view of health and safety.

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.

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

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Rod Sumner
Rod Sumner
4 years ago

Hi Anna I commend you on asking the question as I’ve felt for a very long time now that the majority of Safety Professionals have a very poor understanding of the why. As you have alluded to, compliance is at the forefront of their thinking and in many respects its an impediment to actually improving performance. Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great ” asserts that good is the enemy of great because many organisations are happy with good and so don’t bother to strive for great. This is analogous with compliance and the safety profession, many Safety Professionals… Read more »

Heather Beach
Heather Beach
4 years ago
Reply to  Rod Sumner

Rod I hope you are coming to the session to join the debate. Thanks 🙂 Heather