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The OHS Trainer turned Safety Assassin

July 8, 2013

Safety Assassin

Sometimes People just get it wrong.

I recently attended a management conference on Strategy and Business Development. Having read the conference agenda I was pleasantly surprised to see they had an OHS practitioner speaking in the final session of the morning on “Corporate OHS Management”. In my mind I was thinking “At last business people will see the value of having OHS as a subject to talk about at a management conference”.

At 11:30am the OHS practitioner was introduced and over 700 senior management delegates from around the world sat waiting to hear why safety is a strategic issue, and hopefully gain some professional insight.

The OHS presenter walked up to the podium, his opening line “There are people in this room that kill and maim people as part of their business”. What followed next was just a relentless stream of slides on what types of accidents can occur, and how to ensure people are trained to cover all safety eventualities known to mankind.

Now the so called presentation was meant to go on for 45 minutes, after around 15 minutes over half the delegates had left the conference room, including me. I can only describe the experience as a torturous and relentless rant, by an individual who had no idea how to present at a conference or even the actual subject matter of his speech.

Now as you can imagine the discussion over lunch was geared around the OHS speaker, and what a cock-up it was by the conference organizers to invite what most people called a safety moron, idiot or similar words to that effect. Without doubt the only thing the speaker managed to do was setback the OHS profession 20 years, hence I called him the safety assassin.

It turned out that the conference organizer had selected the OHS speaker based purely on the fact that he had conducted 100’s of OHS training courses. If the conference organizer had done their home work they would have selected the appropriate speaker, and vetted the presentation prior to the conference. That way they would have prevented the screw-up that occurred on the day.


My Personal Tip.

Now I would like to give a bit of advice, we all know and appreciate that there are some great OHS trainers and consultants in our industry. But that does not always make them the right choice to be a safety speaker at a management conference. Conference organizers need to question the actual experience and exposure of speakers especially when talking at a senior level.

My tip to speakers, before you accept or apply for a speaking slot at a conference ensure that you really are capable of delivering to the audience in the appropriate manner and style. The one thing about the OHS profession you can always ask others for their opinion on if you’re suitable as a speaker, or even get them to vet your speech or presentation.

Remember when you step up to the speaker’s podium your also acting as an ambassador of the OHS profession.

 

Author;  Wayne  J Harris, Chairman of ISQEM

 

 

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25 Comments
  1. Excellent article, excellent advice.

  2. Shafiee permalink

    People such like him only know to make money without safety concern AND one day they will realize that SAFETY is very very important in their whole life.

  3. olalekan olayinka permalink

    Bravo, good job

  4. Oyekunle Oyewole permalink

    Excellent!

  5. Stewart Ralf permalink

    Great observation and artical.

  6. Cipriano Corva, FSIA (RSP) Australia permalink

    Great article Wayne. What a cock-up presentation; no wonder attendees walked out. I totally agree that speakers for conferences (and other events) need to be selected on the basis that they are experienced and capable of delivering to the audience in the appropriate manner and style.

    SAFETY: “When the meaning is unclear, there is no meaning”.
    “When the meaning has no intention, there is no result”

  7. A very good, thought-proving article. Unfortunately some practitioners, whilst very good at health and safety, are lacking in business skills.

  8. Adeduro Ruth permalink

    This is so ridiculous. You are right wayne. This is not limited to presentation alone but it is also applicable to all ramifications of life. Ordinary documentation is reviewed by two or three people before final approval so as to ensure Good documentation practice not alone a presentation at an international level. I think the speaker’s training the trainer’s certificate should be questioned. I like your opinion and is a good advice and it has given us opportunity to learn better. As OHS professionals we should not think we are always there but give room for correction.

  9. Robert Jorden permalink

    Your comments are so true and should be taken into account by all of us in OSH

  10. curtis childress permalink

    Rule #1 for any presenter- “Know your audience”.

    Rule #1 for any conference organizer- “Know your presenters.”

    Failure to follow either of these is generally messy, ugly, disquieting, unpleasant, humbling- and is not career enhancing.

    Or- as Dirty Harry said- “A man’s gotta know his limitations”. When planning a presentation, step one should be to determine WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) An audience of defensive driving students with have different goals than an audience of execs learning how to establish risk management policies for their vehicle fleet. If you cannot determine- or deliver- what’s in it for THEM- you may not be the right presenter.

    Rule #2 for presenters- Alienate your audience and you will have built barriers rather than removing them. Was that REALLY what you meant to do?

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments. I’m glad that you found the article useful, and I look forward to seeing more of your comments in the future.

    Regards
    Wayne

  12. Kim Fasnacht, CHST permalink

    You nailed it here.

    I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to this type of speaker or trainer. I actually refused to sign up for an OSHA 500 recert class when I found out who the instructor was going to be.

    I’ve also painfully sat through an entire lecture that (I could have presented myself) just to get the CEU.

  13. good title safety assasin but not to preach in audience get on voilators of HSE in ninja style

  14. Good point. I have known some very good EHS pros who are not good trainers or speakers. Since we are critiquing here, the last sentence regarding the podium should read ” you’re”, not “your”.

  15. When will safety presenters stop with the shame and blame presentations. Nobody likes advice given from a high white horse. Nice article Wayne.

  16. Ime David permalink

    Some people chose safety to be a part time job. OHS Presenters rather than Fake OHS Presenters or people who are not really in the business but there do it to make money and the client chose the people with low bidding in the contract just to cut cost, this same way applied in their business which at the end result in an unwanted event or unplanned occurrences.
    Please my advice today is this, before you invite any OHS Presenter for such big occasion first of all have one day presentation with him, asked him (”how do you want to present this topic”) to present his package to you first before audience you allow him to go out there and spoil your day.

    “Get it right first time – make your business safe and sound” Safety is a full time job, don’t make it a part time practice.

    ”Audit the person first”

  17. Ime David permalink

    Some people chose safety to be a part time job. Instead of certified OHS Presenters they rather choice Fake OHS Presenters or people who are not really in the business, fake OHS do it to make money and the client chose the people with low bidding in the contract just to cut cost, this same way applied in their project which at the end result in an unwanted event or unplanned occurrences.
    Please my advice today is this, before you invite any OHS Presenter for such big occasion next time, first of all have one day presentation with him, asked him (”present this topic to me first”) to present his package to you first before audience, don’t allow him to go out there and spoil your day.

    “Get it right first time – make your business safe and sound” Safety is a full time job, don’t make it a part time practice.

    ”Audit the person first”

    Big thanks to Wayne for his observation and publication.

  18. audrey silver permalink

    Totally agree – been there, seen it, had to deal with the fallout.
    Training and / or seminar presentation are not well covered in the safety practitioner learning process. Many mistake ‘giving safety training’ (a subject in itself so lets not go there) with ‘presenting’. The missing links are – audience awareness, (research) and sales ability (influence).
    Mind you, have also been to police road safety talks pretty similar – treating groups of advanced driver to a patronising lecture, which just served as a platform for showing grim photographs of crashes.

  19. Well said Wayne and all
    As a confernce speaker myself, I know there is no value in preaching to the converted. You seam to have alluded to but not actually said that the managers would not be at the conference if they did not already know problems exist and the reason they attended was to learn new techniques in how others have overcome problems.
    A good speaker will give the attendees useable information to improve businesses.
    Keep up the good work

  20. Gordon Whiteman permalink

    Unfortunately many safety trainers are a product of their environment. I speak from personal experience having come through the industry from the ground up. My father was a builder and I followed in his footsteps working in the construction industry virtually my whole life. Time and again I found myself at the mercy of unsafe builders and contractors putting money and programme ahead of the workers life. This inspired me to work my way up to a position where I now influence the safety behavior of senior managers. It is unfortunate the training you experienced missed the opportunity to influence. The trainer in question had no doubt battled with officers and PCBUs in the past and has now resorted to the ‘big stick’ approach with a negative affect. Thank you for your invaluable feedback. It serves as a stark reminder that you get more results from a spoo ful of sugar than a to tonne of salt.

  21. And this is why we need to encourage more to join the networks of OHS professionals that exist – how else can we develop a meaningful way of communicating the importance of OHS in our everyday lives let alone our working lives. I really like the line about being an ambassador of OHS – but being an ambassador doesn’t mean “being nice” all the time – it also means having the courage to have the hard discussions IN PRIVATE with management and front line staff as needed to ensure the right message is delivered and the behaviours are encouraged and continually developed.

    A conference is hardly the place to continue playing the shame approach – enough of the negative stuff let’s start delivering positive messages about OHS – there are enough negative perceptions about OHS Laws and OHS Practitioners as it is.

    Compliance is essential – but we need to overlay a human face on top of this all – that way others outside OHS will relate and be less intimidated to ask questions and improve their understanding.

  22. John Cryer permalink

    And to think these people (presenters) get paid for shooting from the hip. Good comment, I am sure the word will circulate not to engage for future events.

  23. Peter permalink

    Well said Wayne. I like the term ‘Safety Assassin’.., unfortunately, they do not pop-up as presenters only, they also walk and work amongst us as well.

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