What ‘safety differently’ means to Art of Work’s Helen Rawlinson
Despite being relatively new to the world of health and safety, I have encountered a number of female role models in the industry. I am very fortunate to be developing meaningful relationships with these individuals, one of which I would like to introduce in this post: Helen Rawlinson.
Helen’s commitment to transform the way health and safety is understood and practised is something I greatly respect, and no doubt has contributed to her fast progression into her role of Managing Director UK at Art of Work. What we do at Acre Frameworks is very different from Art of Work, but I am always striving to learn about what others are doing in the industry regarding approaches to progressive health and safety.
Coming from a long-standing career in academia, challenging my way of thinking by constantly learning new concepts and putting myself in others’ shoes is a big part of my personal development at Acre, so I’d like to invite you to do the same when you read this publication!
It has been especially rewarding to hear how Helen’s experience using our Acre Frameworks assessment has directed her personal development journey to become the influential health and safety leader she wants to be:
“I first came across Frameworks a couple of years ago – the business I was working for at the time was really innovative with their approaches and so the whole team were given the opportunity to take the competency assessment. When I moved on to a new business I opened the opportunity up for my team to do the same and, in addition, we used Acre Frameworks to coach us in professional development through private 1-1 coaching sessions.
“I have learnt so much about myself, my working style, my goals and abilities through Frameworks. There really isn’t any other business offering quite the same level of support, not only with soft skill development but also with strategic business and management coaching. It has been invaluable to me and I’ve used it to guide my career. As a result I have landed some dream jobs which simply were out of my reach beforehand”.
Frustration with tradition
I opened up my conversation with Helen by asking her to identify the turning point in her career when she recognised approaches to health and safety needed to change:
“I’ve been in H&S for over ten years now and that is long enough to become really familiar, and frustrated, with traditional safety management. I had become a great deviation hunter/ hazard spotter, an excellent auditor and had finessed writing management systems and procedures.
“I was particularly good at coaching people in how to align themselves to the organisations safety approach. However, I grew disappointed that whenever I interacted with people they expected to be told what to do right or pointed toward what they were doing wrong. Our people are not used to being asked how they create success or what the reality of conducting work is. We normally only ask questions to search for deviations, we don’t try and understand variances or successes created by our people every single day”.
Work imagined versus work done
So let’s explore Helen’s journey doing safety differently by starting with an anecdote from her on ‘work imagined versus work done’…
“We all generate to do lists, either by writing them out or by mentally thinking of the things we plan to do during the day ahead. These lists in comparison to what we actually achieve are quite different. Why? Because resource may not always be as we anticipate, we can be interrupted by visitors, clients and various other stakeholders, or there could be a change in demand of our workload. Why is this any different for a front-line worker? Why do our processes and procedures only allow for one scenario- a situation which is expected to go right? There is a difference between Work as Imagined and Work as Done.
Imagine that you are a scaffolder, most of the time you have the tools and resource you need to complete your work, but sometimes you don’t. You come to work to be successful and so you adapt to the situation you are in. You get the scaffold built, job done. No incidents. This is seen as a good situation by your client because you have fulfilled their expectations. They may even praise you if you have pulled the work in earlier than anticipated.
Now imagine the same scenario but the variance results in an incident.
This time you are subject to what is usually quite an interrogating process. You are told what you should have and could have done, that you are to blame because you have not followed the policies and procedures. Better organisations will seek to understand the variance, but typically this still results in you being to blame as you did not stop, take 5, do the right thing, notify your supervisor…
Yet had the variance resulted in success, the way normal work happens for you most likely would have gone unnoticed. It is so important to recognise that variance is inevitable and to learn from normal work, it enables organisations to set their people up for success, it increases trust and it prevents us wasting time, money and effort in controlling the impossible”.
Revelation or evolution
So where can a company kick off its journey to going safety differently?
“The beauty of Safety Differently is that it is applied through enabling so can either be through a significant revelation or through a softer evolution approach. You can make a start by asking the workforce just one question during your next inspection or audit; ‘what do you rely on most here to be successful?’, the answers will enlighten you as to where to focus time and energy in creating an environment which sets people up for success.
If you want a more significant change, start discovering how work is conducted in reality and start understanding the impact of your most recent changes on the people doing the work.
Quite often it isn’t easy to create revolutionary change from within an organisation, especially at executive level; however, this is important to the success of creating sustainable change so use your management consultants to help highlight the need, to grow the understanding within your business and implement practices which will be part of the way your organisation goes to work”.
Time is usually the most cited restriction to investing in change – so how do you create time?
“You can start by freeing up time with being open to surprises. Does it take more time to understand how work is done than to try and contort people into operating to a written procedure? Actually, it takes less time and it is far more valuable.
I once worked for a business where it took, on average, 72 hours per month to update the SMS with hazards/ take 5. 72 hours can instead be used to understand what frustrates people doing the work, what they rely on most to be successful, what is creating difficulty and where money is being wasted in their opinion”.
Understanding the philosophy
How about Art of Work Masterclasses?
“We actually have a suite of masterclasses available and deliver them publicly or in-house, they are part of a much bigger process of change and are designed to challenge delegates in their approach. We aim to provide a deeper understanding of the principles and practices and we hope to inspire people to implement the practices within their organisations.
“For example, we have a Safety Differently masterclass which provides an understanding of the philosophy, we then have Appreciative Investigation Masterclass which focuses on understanding and learning from normal work (Work as Done) then a masterclass in Enabling Leaders. The core part of our business is helping businesses to implement various practices which live on beyond the masterclasses and become a standard approach to work”.
I hope this provides some interesting food for thought and I’d like to close with the following quote:
“Health and safety is not the absence, but the presence of something.”
Helen’s commentary on what this means in relation to Art of Work’s approach to health and safety:
“The traditional measures of safety performance typically focus on accident statistics and other lag indicators such as number of deviations found during audit or trending hazard areas. Instead, we support our clients by providing a different way to measure performance and help to unlock their already existing potential in creating success.
“This does not mean looking just at the positives, but also looking at all the times normal work is conducted. Many organisations have a way to measure AFR but they don’t yet have a way to understand or measure what is happening the rest of the time, so if your AFR is 0.1%, what happens the other 0.99% of the time? We provide lead indicators to support the traditional lag indicators, requiring organisations to learn from their people”.
So what does this quote mean to you? Can you identify approaches like safety differently in your work place – if so what do they look like? Please comment below with any thoughts or questions!
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