Assistant Editor, SHP & IFSEC Global

April 5, 2022

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coaching and mentoring

The importance of coaching and mentoring for the future HSE & Risk professional – SHP speaks to Hugh Maxwell

Ahead of Safety & Health Expo 2022, taking place from 17-19 May at ExCeL London, SHP speaks to Business Development Director at Chubb Global Risk Advisors, Hugh Maxwell, as he discusses the importance of adequate H&S coaching in a post-COVID era, the consequences of poor leadership and the positive impact of a shift towards a sustainable and adaptable approach to health & safety.   

Hugh Maxwell, Business Development Director, Chubb

Can you start by giving our readers an insight into your career so far, how did you come to work in health and safety? What are some of your current duties as Business Development Director at Chubb? 

Hugh Maxwell (HM): “I began my career in 1987 after graduating from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, with a degree in chemistry.

“I joined a local company specialising in the manufacture of foundry consumables as Chief Chemist Designate. After around a year in the role, I was offered the chance to take a shift management Quality Control role, from which I learned much more about the products, processes and people management.

“With a strong chemical and maths background, I assisted the implementation of ISO9001 for the business and several new statistical process control techniques. I also supported the improvement of sharing information concerning safe chemical handling and use.

“Following multiple subsequent role progressions at various companies, in 2003 I received a European Star Performer Award for the work and achievements made during my time at Foseco PLC.

“In 2005, I was appointed into the new role of Group HSE Manager for Foseco, supporting a business of 3800 employees, manufacturing in 28 companies globally. I assisted the establishment of new businesses in Poland and Turkey and helped reshape the European business footprint.

“I was offered my current role with Chubb Global Risk Advisors, looking to develop and grow the business in EMEA, in January 2020. In recent weeks, I have decided to get more involved in a wider scope of activities and work, so as of April 2022, I am going on my own to develop and drive HSE and Risk Management support around the globe again.”

At Safety & Health Expo 2022, you’ll be speaking on the importance of coaching and mentoring for the future HSE & Risk professional – why is this such an important topic, particularly as we move into this ‘post-COVID’ era?

(HM): “Much of my Business Development Director role was hindered initially due to COVID and my work became more project management based than hands-on interaction.

“Since COVID came along, I have been even more engaged in coaching and mentoring globally, due to a lack of strict travel time constraints.

“During this time, I have hosted many events, discussing risk and the impact of COVID, heavily motivated by a realisation that we all need to take stock of where we’re at, reflect on what COVID has taught us, pay attention to our values and ambitions, and how best we can prepare ourselves for future uncertainties.

“In my opinion, the impact of COVID has raised the bar in terms of expectations of individuals and businesses engaged in Risk and HSE Management. I have seen a major changes in thinking for many businesses towards safety and sustainability, and with this comes a need to be more adaptable, with a greater ability to react and respond to unforeseeable challenges and issues.”

What are some of the consequences poor leadership can have on a business from a health and safety point of view?

(HM): “Poor leadership in this day in this day in age can kill both people and business. The businesses who have managed to ride the challenges of COVID to the best effect are the ones who have adapted, adopted new practices, and prepared and engaged their people best throughout this period of uncertainty.

“Poor communication, fear of the unknown, a lack of trust, a lack of engagement and a number of other factors have resulted not only in business closure or underperformance, but also low morale, higher absenteeism, more accidents at work, higher staff turnover and also underperformance across businesses.

“Nobody wants to work for a company which does not protect or look out for its workforce, so, ultimately, poor leadership will drive out the good and go under over time.”

Why should attendees be sure to catch your talk – what will be the main takeaway? 

(HM): “By attending my talk, I’m hoping to encourage all Risk and HSE professionals to be very selfish in the future. Take the effects of COVID and the recovery as a positive opportunity to grow, reinvent yourself and shape yourself better for future challenges.

“Never has the Risk and HSE professional had a greater opportunity to show and share the value they can add to a business if their work is used, developed and integrated into strategies routinely and effectively.

“It is also worth bearing in mind that the great resignation is here and now – and I believe a thing for the future. Each of us has changed our values in terms of work-life balance and expectations. Mentoring enables us to plan, prepare and implement personal development strategies short, medium and longer term – taking into account personal wants, qualifications and training, and equally important family life and demands.

“It will also allow people to realise that opportunities never seem to come along when you want them to – so it’s always best to be prepared. If things go wrong see that as a positive opportunity for change. Always have a plan B – especially with the rate of change that is the modern norm.”

What are you personally most looking forward to seeing at Safety & Health Expo 2022? Are there any talks/panels you’re particularly excited to hear?

(HM): “Firstly, I am so pleased to see the great scope of speakers and topics being covered this year. I am particularly pleased to see the prominence of mental health from a variety of different sources. The session by Gill Kernick based on the learning of Grenfell and fire safety is also of personal interest.

“Having had two years of relative isolation, I’m also really looking forward to meeting and making new contacts face-to-face, sharing experiences and seeing what new products, technologies and other positives will come from our ability to engage and meet like-minded professionals again.

“It’s a real honour and privilege to be able to share my presentation and hopefully assist others in shaping themselves for a more exciting and self-development-based future.”

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