‘You have to get your most senior leaders opening up and talking about mental health’
SHP speaks to Global VP Health, Safety & Environment at Sodexo, Alastair Davey, about implementing a successful health & safety culture in a large organisation and how to introduce impactful health programmes.
Originally trained as an electronics engineer, Alastair Davey’s career has seen him undergo finance training with KPMG and a stint in management consulting, before moving to the oil and gas industry. During his time with ExxonMobil and BP, he covered various roles, including operational positions, internal audit and risk management. “Clearly through that experience of working for those organisations, you are automatically sensitised to the importance of health & safety issues.”
In 2008, he took a change in career, moving to Sodexo to head up the firm’s group internal audit function in London. “I realised there were a lot of attributes, in terms of culture and systems and processes, from oil and gas, that could move over into the outsourcing space.”
Sodexo employs over 470,000 people globally and provides a wide range of services, including food and other integrated FM services, from managing buildings, security and technical, electrical and mechanical services. Alastair began his tenure by setting up a corporate HSE function, to connect what was a global decentralised organisation. He built the systems and the team from scratch, moving into his current role as Global VP for HSE around five years ago.
This diversity of people, jobs and services presents a big challenge for Alastair and his team. “We have more than 100 professions within the company. On top of that, we operate largely on our client sites, around 35,000 different client sites in total around the world. Of course, typically, we are a minority player on those sites, in terms of the number of people on the ground and, for the most part, we are operating with client equipment and within their infrastructure. Clearly there is an existing health & safety culture on site, which we have to adapt to and also try to positively influence.”
So how do you implement a successful health & safety culture when you have staff spread across thousands of sites in 67 countries across the world? “What we’ve tried to do is to simplify and clarify what we expect our managers and our employees to do in order to manage their operations safely and meet the required health & safety standards. Sometimes that means translating some quite technical information in a simple, clear, easy to understand way.”
Impactful health programmes
Alastair will be speaking as part of a panel discussion at April’s EHS Congress, on the topic of Impactful Health Programmes. He told SHP about some of the programmes that he has implemented at Sodexo that could be easily adopted by other workforces. “There are a number of health programmes that we use internally. Many are run locally and are country specific, but within the last year, we have also launched a global mental health and wellbeing awareness programme, which is about raising awareness and providing everyone with basic information around what mental health is and how it impacts individuals and the organisation and what our leaders and managers can do to both manage their own mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of their teams.
“One of the key things that we are trying to address is to tackle the stigma that can be associated with mental health. To achieve this we have encouraged our senior leaders to open up and talk about mental health. Within our e-learning programme, we have senior leaders talking on camera about their own personal experiences with mental health and what it means to them.
“It’s the same with safety as it is with health, you’ve got to get your most senior leaders opening up and talking about this. We talk about visible and felt leadership in safety, well I think it’s exactly the same parallel in health and that’s where you start to see the change.”
EHS Congress has catapulted itself into the center of the Health & Safety community by providing an unparalleled combination of high quality presentations, bringing together hundreds of important thought leaders and has been the annual meeting point for all H&S professionals from across Europe and beyond.
In 2020, the leading EHS event in Europe gather some of the world’s top thinkers including Sidney Dekker, Erik Hollnagel and Dianne Parker with organisations lining up such as BP, Danone, BASF, PepsiCo, Engie and many more.
It’s a great place to initiate collaboration, brainstorm new ideas & concepts and connect into and over the 300+ senior safety leaders that will be in attendance having the responsibility to bring their workers back home safely, every day.
The early bird delegate pass offer ends on November 30.