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May 3, 2016

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HSE Leaders Connect – HRD: friend or foe?

HSE leaders connect eventBy Danielle Stallard, HSE Recruitment

Fifty well-recognised leaders in health and safety attended the inaugural HSE Leaders Connect event in April to discuss, among other things, the relationship between health, safety and environment, and human resources.

HSE Leaders Connect is a growing collective of around 200 esteemed professionals. It was recently developed to offer a diverse range of networking opportunities to the elite of the health and safety world. With an impressive delegate list and surprisingly glorious weather, the atmosphere was set for a sensational launch event.

Held at London’s Living Room at City Hall and with NCRQ as the host for the evening, delegates included HSE leaders from high profile organisations including Laing O’Rourke, Sodexo and Capita which made for diverse and engaging conversation during the introductory networking session.

Wandering around the room, conversations could be overheard and provided insight into fundamental current issues such as wellbeing, diversity, industry qualifications and safety performance. However, the key talking point was the upcoming Q&A panel session that looked at the increasingly relevant relationship between HSE and HRD (human resource development).

Compéring the event was Chris Rowlands, director of The HSE Recruitment Network and sister brand Network HR, offering a good insight into the roles that both HSE and HR play within an organisation.

The panel consisted of three highly experienced HR leaders: Sarah Carrington, Rob Jones and Charlotte Sword.

Sarah is currently the Head of HR at the British Film Institute and has a diverse and interesting background, including an exciting period of time working with Greenpeace in Amsterdam.

Also with a fascinating career history, Rob has acquired a varied skillset and is currently Head of Organisational Effectiveness at Crossrail, one of the UK’s most innovative projects to date.

Charlotte is Partner and Global Head of HR with Foster & Partners, who were in fact the architects responsible for the captivating building the event took place in, as well as many others throughout the UK and internationally.

As three HR professionals in a room of HSE leaders, the topic of ‘HRD: Friend or Foe?’ could easily have intimidated or provoked any one of the panel members, as it can often be a highly contested subject within an organisation. However, it seemed the panel came prepared and were confident in the abilities of their individual teams and in the HR industry overall. Each of the panel members addressed the challenges facing their organisations in regards to health and safety, how this impacts HR and how the relationship between the two exists.

Crossrail is a significantly high profile, high risk project that is drawing close to completion and is now being actively demobilised. Rob spoke of the expectations when part of a team on such a major project, referring to the development of ‘Team Crossrail’ – the initiative that everyone on site has the same focus in order to generate new ideas, a vision and a brand.

This extends to the project’s safety program Target Zero, which is to ensure that any one person on site will go home safe, and applies to anyone that steps foot on a Crossrail site – whether this is an outsourced contractor or direct employee of the project.

To emphasise this, Rob used a sporting analogy that aligned Crossrail with the British and Irish Lions, and smaller contractors with local teams. The message echoed that although you may be part of another team (or business), when you are representing the Lions badge you are part of that team and live by their ethos. Rob went on to describe how this is achieved through encouraging honesty and empowering people on site, regardless of whether they are employed by Crossrail or not.

Sarah delivered a similar message, stating that it makes “good business sense” to empower employees to be accountable and to look after themselves. At the British Film Institute, Sarah and the HR team are striving to implement tools to improve awareness of health and not just physical safety. It is evident within the industry that mental health and wellbeing agendas are coming to the fore, with rapidly increasing relevance in all industries.

In the business of making beautiful buildings, Charlotte expressed that maintaining the standard of health and safety on an international scale is often a challenging feat, highlighting the concerns of construction workers receiving ‘danger money’. Unfortunately, this is a result of these workers having a limited understanding of safety and with the attitude that it is not in their interest to increase standards on site but to ‘get the job done’. Both safety and security are difficult issues to tackle within a transient workforce, as Charlotte asked: “How do you ‘track’ employees without confining them?”

While the HR team at Foster & Partners have a close working relationship with their health and safety team, they have recognised that while knowledge of physical wellbeing is well structured and well communicated within the organisation, there is always room for development and new initiatives focusing on mental health and wellbeing.

Interestingly, each of the panel members touched upon this thought-provoking topic in their own way, which was quickly recognised by the HSE delegates who are more than familiar with the concept, asking the panel: “How is HR dealing with workplace stress?”

The response from the HR representatives was that it is something that must be managed proactively through a multitude of tools and initiatives. The ‘science of happiness’ is a key consideration when managing mental wellbeing, encouraging mindfulness and the ability to build resilience in order to combat stress in a difficult world. However the theme continued in the same vein, with an attendee tackling the core of the debate – should wellbeing and occupational health sit within HR or health and safety?

The panel offered two straightforward responses: either every organisation is different and so this will vary; or it should sit with both HR and health and safety in a collaborative effort.

As the Q&A session drew to a close, many of the attendees expressed the view that the HR professionals could have delved further into this topic that is currently so prevalent within the health and safety world. As networking continued into the evening, it became apparent that this is a topic that requires further conversation and may always leave unanswered questions.

As attendees gathered for photos, drinks and interesting conversation on the balcony, the first HSE Leaders Event drew to a close. A success for all involved, the event brought together some of the best in the industry and HSE Leaders Connect will continue to do so in the future.

Video highlights and photographs from the event are now live for you all to view, please find links below:

For more information on HSE Leaders Connect, please contact [email protected] or join our group on LinkedIn.

Danielle-HSEDanielle Stallard is a specialist HSE recruiter within the logistics, transport and retail markets and has three years’ experience in the recruitment industry. She has built a comprehensive network since joining The HSE Recruitment Network in early 2015, working with industry leading businesses and successfully delivering on a range of assignments, from SHEQ Manager to Safety Director. Danielle regularly contributes to online publications and attends industry leading events.


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