Safety Leadership – Bridging the Gap

11th May 2017

“Why do our Health & Safety results never consistently improve?”

I was asked recently to comment on why lots of activity to improve Health & Safety at a large organisation was not having the desired impact.

“Despite all the H&S activities we have completed, there has been no reduction in incidents or near misses”.

A question that has, no doubt, crossed all of our minds as we strive to achieve our vision of Health & Safety Excellence.

The leader of any organisation is presented with the task of setting the direction of travel and taking the business with them. The success that follows is influenced by many things. At the forefront, clearly communicated organisational beliefs and values linked to a simple vision and strategy are key. People know what is expected and how to achieve it. The words and actions of the top person are matched by complementary words and actions at all levels of the organisation – a significant change in performance and results is therefore possible.

Performance vs Results

But why are the vision and strategy for Health & Safety often disconnected from the main business vision and strategy? Why is there sometimes no (or limited) obvious impact of lots of activity on H&S results such as Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR).

Firstly, it is essential to understand the clear difference between performance and results. We can slip into the habit of endlessly evaluating the results – “longingly staring at the graphs” – whilst losing focus on what our performance is really like. A more appropriate question might be:

“Why, when we are doing so many things to improve our H&S results, are we making so little progress with improving our H&S performance?”

The answer can be found using the business tools that manage day to day performance.

Perceived value for Health & Safety

You may think that it is odd, or unrealistic, to question if H&S is a real value of modern organisations. Surely, not killing people, not giving them chronic health conditions but instead focusing on a highly efficient and profitable business must be what we believe in and value most!
As you reflect on this, ask yourself: “How do people know what I value?” If someone asked your team “What does your manager value?” what would your team say?

It is healthy and helpful to outline what an organisation would look like with Health & Safety as an established business value. This can be a really valuable exercise for a Leadership team as a sense-check. Where an executive group have concluded on the importance of H&S to them, i.e. they believe and value it highly, then this must be anchored in the recorded vision of the organisation.

Next time you look at a company website, compare the values and vision in their “About” section against the information provided in their “Health & Safety” section.

Does the H&S “number 1 priority” get a mention in the values and vision? Often the answer is no. And, if this is the case, any H&S activities relating to “number 1 priority” or the need for “Zero Harm” are doomed to failure because they are not constituent parts of the Beliefs, Values and Vision of the organisation.

“What interests my boss, fascinates me”

Businesses repeatedly show success in those areas they believe in and have a value for. Within those success stories, we find the topic was
1) clearly stated as a business value
2) prioritised for resource and high-level reviews
3) well engaged in its achievement by the workforce and
4) initially led from the top, with progressively greater ownership by the whole workforce.
Words alone mean nothing.
Strong H&S performance is not directly proportional to management exhortations or the number of Zero Harm posters.

Bridging the Gap

Success in Health & Safety requires connecting the organisation’s Beliefs and Values & Leadership commitment to the core risk management activities that address people and the work tasks they conduct.
Failure to make this bridge often leads to even greater enthusiasm to find alternative routes to success. While often having merit in their own right, these are similarly doomed to failure, as with more traditional concepts, because they are not aligned with what the business really wants.
This inevitably means such targeted H&S activity will be cut-off from the main engine-room of the business and will achieve only limited impact on H&S performance.

Do you have genuine value for the Health & Safety of your employees?

Using extensive global senior leadership safety experience, Darren Broadhead Consulting Ltd can help you integrate Health & Safety seamlessly into your organisational vision and values and deliver transformational H&S performance to your business.
Contact us on +44 (0)7710 024013 or email us at admin@darrenbroadheadconsulting.com for further information.

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