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Strategic Safety Management – Part: One

August 23, 2013

ISQEM article on Strategic Safety Management

Strategic management is often misunderstood when it comes to safety. We have to accept that an organization operates in a dynamic marketplace with legislation, competitors, consumers, technology, and local social economic factors affecting them on a day to day basis.

In order for the safety professional to get buy-in they must be able to demonstrate that any proposed changes will have a tangible benefit and contribute to the businesses overall success and profitability.

Today’s business executives need to be able to justify any revenue expenditure in order to be competitive in the marketplace. Yet, many safety people still fail to convince their companies that the safety inputs can add true revenue potential?

Why Organisations get it wrong (The 7 deadly sins)

One of the biggest errors made by organisations is the failure to approach safety in line with other business management practices. If we look at the typical mistakes which happen in organisations when it comes to developing their overall safety strategy:

1. The process tends to be primarily led, driven and managed by HSE staff, which means there will be an instant obstacle to any buy-in from other functional departments.

2. HSE has not been quantified within a financial budget for medium to long term growth. Lack of analysis to define real costing’s from implementation, maintenance, to profitability, with no financial indicators. Any change will be difficult to effectively manage or measure.

3. No consideration given to stakeholder requirements for business efficiency or maintainability. Justification for change is mainly focused on incident prevention and compensation, difficult to justify if there are very few or no incidents or claims occurring.

4. Purchasing off the shelve HSE programmes or software, then trying to adapt the organisation to fit the system. Off the shelve systems often turn out to be dysfunctional and fail to meet the overall culture and style of management adopted with a company, often seen as a silo management practice add-on

5. Lack of a clear strategy plan to make the change in line with other business requirements. Quite often they are developed and rolled out more like a high-level idea, and lack any real planning or analysis. Calling something a strategic plan doesn’t make it one if it has not been done properly.

6. HSE personnel are often not involved in other strategy decisions of the organisation or its business objectives, which often means a direct miss-alignment in the main business strategy or growth. There is no such thing as a standalone function within a company.

7. Poor communication and consultation with appropriate functional specialist or departments. It’s no good developing a strategic plan, and then keeping it secret within a small group of people. Every tactical action supporting the strategic objectives needs to be included in an overall communication plan so that the strategy is reinforced. The failure to communicate the vision and strategic objectives to other stakeholders is a disaster just waiting to happen.

If any of the above apply to your organisation, then ultimately you’re highly likely to fail in delivering a real corporate strategy that will make any sustainable and financially beneficial improvements.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have seen companies spend money on making changes to their systems, training of staff etc., just to find out that things have not really changed. Strategic Safety Management requires a comprehensive examination of all major components of management strategy and their integration in order to be successful.

In my next article I will expand into how you can develop a safety strategy that can help you succeed in gaining support from your top management and more importantly a higher chance of success. One thing for sure, there is no magic solution, but you can reduce the risk of failure by utilising appropriate management tools to create a cohesive safety vision within the context of an effective organisational business strategy.

Remember the safety profession are viewed as advisors, so we need to act accordingly and ensure organisations are given the best advice and guidance to enable them to achieve their vision and ultimate objectives.

About the Author: Wayne J Harris
Wayne J Harris  Health and Safety

Wayne is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 30 years’ experience within high-risk environments. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management.

Wayne’s experience in dealing within the international arena and multiple cultures from Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East has given him a comprehensive understanding of the global risk issues facing an organisation in today’s business economy. He has held various senior corporate roles, and has sat on the Board of Directors of several companies including a Chamber of Commerce. He is also the Chairman of ISQEM, and a Director of the World Safety Organization (WSO) UN-NGO.

  1. An interesting read. I would imagine this is a hard sell, until, someone gets hurt or worse and then the corporate responsibility takes notice. Selling the change before some one gets hurt is ideal and would be met with many challenges. “why should we change now, every one is ok, we have a good track record”.

    Safety, is often a contentions issue at the “coal face” as it can be over stated by those with good intentions but no “hands on” experience. Policy, or procedure can, at times, make a task more difficult and inadvertently increase the risk in another area or zone, but the obvious “in your face” risk may have been negated by the procedure. hence the consultation discussed.

    A great article and something those with share price and market value on their mind will read.
    Culture starts at the top

  2. ANNAN BOODOO permalink

    Those who make recommendations must justify them as managers only see figures and where health and safety is concerned the difficulty lies here as the return on this investment is not tangible.

  3. Michael Geldsetzer permalink

    Wayne, some of the points are very interesting. Nevertheless there is one aspect that you do not consider:

    People and their psychological SELF

    and some other aspects, such as:

    1. Today’s companies are mainly managed by people that have only time (3-5 years max.)
    contracts that are measured by productivity and shareholder value only.
    2. I assume that in not a single of that cases managers are measured either for environmental nor
    for health and safety issues [beside workers compensation, what’s by the way completely wrong].
    3. The world of today (and in that world politics, business and lobbyist’s) just TALK of those above
    mentioned topics, the day-2-day reality is obviously a different one.
    4. Environmental and health & safety issues are used (better abused) as a political instrument –
    those are basic liberties and should rather be implemented in a world wide unique and equal ”
    charter of fundamental human rights”.

    It would be interesting to see this world changing, let’s see if I am getting old enough for that. At least I will do my personal best to change that – with providing people the right knowledge FOR FREE via my new founded engineering office.

  4. Serge Rossignol permalink

    Wayne, you’ve written a fantastic article that truly addresses Safety Management. I agree with all your key points and look forward to the next article. All organisations need to get on board and look at their current practices. In getting people to adhere to strive for a safer work environment, I read a quote by Gandhi recently who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  5. Banno Jessie permalink

    WAYNE, I would like to quote from your above Article … ‘3. No consideration given to stakeholder requirements for business efficiency or maintainability. Justification for change is mainly focused on incident prevention and compensation, difficult to justify if there are very few or no incidents or claims occurring.’ COMMENT – IF there is no HSE Advisor at Site, the probability of having fatal accident at the Work Place, will be greater… IF, however, every Worker knows RISK ASSESSMENT i.e. HAZID, Mitigation Measures, etc., then, WE DON’T NEED AN EHS DEPARTMENT.

    Unfortunately, MANY ENGINEERS or Supervisors EITHER don’t know HAZID; they OVERLOOK the hazards at the Work Sites or even if they have been given INDUCTIONS, TOOL BOX TALKS, etc., many times over from Company to Company, MANY DON’T CARE ABOUT SAFETY, sometimes, even with the presence of Safety Advisor. The main reasons are – they are more interested in finishing the job… and IT’S OK FOR THEM TO HAVE NEAR MISSES as long as there are no major accidents… Well, we know what will happen next when the COMPANIES DO NOT HAVE AN HSE Advisor or uses a Safety Personnel as a DECORATION FOR COMPLIANCE PURPOSES…

    The good HSE Advisor will always consider the Stakeholders, the Contractors and their People, the Equipment, the Environment, the Materials and the Systems of Work… We have been trained to consider these in the IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY AT THE WORKPLACE and similar Certificated Trainings…

    If, however, there is a better way than this, then, I would like to know more about it…

  6. adeola permalink

    Hi Jesse,
    Just to say, even if all workers know HAZID thats does not justifies not having EHS dept/HSE advisor. Assigning responsibility is a basic requirement of all management systems, someone must be assigned to take care of EHS responsibility….with competency being the watchword.

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