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EHS Departments often fail due to lack of Vision

July 13, 2014

Author: Wayne J. Harris

Safety Leadership and Vision

A common cause of failure in many EHS or safety departments is that people are not inspired, or have the personal motivation to be creative and to go that extra mile to make changes happen.

So what can you do?

Any safety department must have a vision, a view of the future that will both excite and inspire them. This vision may be developed by an individual or collectively.

It is however up to the Department Head to be the Leader and ensure that the vision is driven to reality. Also to make sure everyone is made to feel they have contributed and are valued.

People find working for a strong Safety Leader can be a personally and professionally rewarding experience. They put their passion and energy into everything. They have a goal to achieve and want the safety department to succeed.

People will always follow a person who is passionate and ultimately inspires them

Creating your Vision

Here are 5 simple rules for creating a vision:

1.  Your vision should describe the resultant experience or outcome. Focus on the subsequent outcomes which you want to achieve over a period of time.

2. Keep your vision straightforward for example “to achieve the new ISO certification for EHS by June 2017 across all business Units”.

3. Do not use statements such as “Zero Accidents” or “Reduce Accidents by 50% in 2015” as this not something that you have  100% control over, due to various external factors.

4. Make sure the vision is easily understood by the employees.  Remember if the vision is complicated or a ream of random ideas you will fail to get buy-in.

5. Communicate and communicate again. Simple rule but often forgotten, tell people what has been achieved at different stages and thank those who have contributed.

Lead by Example

Good Safety Leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hiding behind their team. They show by their attitudes and behaviours how everyone should behave to achieve success.

Leaders also make continued efforts to inspire the team into making that special effort to make things different and challenge old practices.

The Challenge

Safety Vison and Leadship ISQEM

EHS or Safety Leaders tend to see the big picture, but sometimes fail when it comes to routine details, which can cause problems.  It is important that any leader selects the right team to help take care of this level of information. Otherwise teams will slowly go off track and the vision will disappear forever.

My challenge to everyone is to revisit what is happening within your department.  Have you set a realistic vision that inspires, or are you just running the same old show over and over again.

Remember if you are not inspiring people to make a change and they lack motivation then  failure is just  waiting around the corner.  So stop and have a hard serious look at your EHS or Safety Department and evaluate your vision and how it will be achieved.



Author: Wayne Harris 

Wayne Harris,  Chairman of ISQEM, is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and HSE management systems with over 30 years’ experience. He has advised major organisations both private and governmental, on key issues of strategy and organisational risk and safety management. Working within the international arena including Europe, Asia-Pacific, to the Middle East. He has a comprehensive understanding of the global risk and safety issues facing organisations in today’s business economy.  Email:



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