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The Change Maker approach to OHS Success.

August 20, 2014

Part 1 of 2

Article by: Wayne J Harris

Embrace or Reject OHS Change

Having been involved in corporate change and restructuring for over 31 years, I have witnessed many people making the fundamental mistake of not identifying real Change Makers within a business.  Hence they rarely achieve any substantial or sustainable improvements.

When things are not moving forward in safety performance, we have to stop and re-evaluate our approach.  Yet unfortunately not everyone seems to see the importance of this and they continue to pursue the same approach over and over again, failing to see that continuation is entirely nugatory.

Developing and improving safety leadership and compliance involves a process of organisational and personal change analysis. Only when the analysis is completed can you start to identify a combination of management tools or processes that will allow people to evolve and make positive changes.

Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.  Well unfortunately sometime people still forget to appreciate this simple but relevant fact.

The question is what do you do when you hit a plateau in safety performance?

Time to Change.

A point of time will come when you will exhaust or stagnate with your present systems approach and will need to make a calculating change to your leadership and management programme.   At this point you must ensure you complete a proper analysis, otherwise you will not be in a position to identify improvements under what I call the “ The 8 Change Makers”.

So what are the 8 Change Makers?

Change makers fall into eight categories, all of which must be researched and analysed to identify sustainable and cost-effective improvements in performance and OHS compliance.  They include;

  1. Corporate Structure
  2. Employees
  3. Machinery and Equipment
  4. Finance and Budgetary Controls
  5. Business Market Sectors
  6. Clients
  7. Legal
  8. Societal and Geographical Footprint

Each of the above categories plays a major part in establishing and improving performance, compliance and incident prevention. If you fail to take into account all of these elements, then your approach to leadership and overall safety management will be very limited, or worst case may even fail.

Typical Mistakes

First of all let’s look at a few of the typical mistakes made when companies approach safety change or leadership.

1. Revamping the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management System – We have all seen this or heard of this before, OHS is not working very well, and incident rates are high. So the first knee jerk reaction is to revamp or completely re-write the OHS management system, all without any real justification to back-up the changes.

2. Selecting the wrong Safety Leaders or Champions – Job title alone does not make someone appropriate to be a safety leader or safety champion.  Yet quite often we see the mistake of selecting senior people, or OHS staff believing by default they must be good safety leaders.  This unfortunately is not always the case, as some people will never become leaders purely because they are missing certain personal qualities, or attributes fundamental to becoming an effective leader

3. Over Training- Don’t get me wrong I know training is crucial to successful implementation of OHS, but it can also be a hindrance or obstacle for making real progress.  The subject matter and quality of content can also be questionable in regards to duration, suitability and ultimately the retention of knowledge by employees. Major re-training programmes can be costly and companies expect a return on their investment (ROI)

4. Lack of Cohesion – When there is lack of cohesion in a company towards OHS change you will seriously struggle to succeed.  Failing to address the needs of individual departments or operational functions within your organisation will place barriers in the way.

5. Failing to observe Societal and Geographical Impacts – Organisations sometimes fail to take into consideration the geographical spread and impacts of their operations.  We have to remember the approach and acceptance of OHS, is often dependent on culture, religion and other societal considerations.  “Just because an OHS system works well in Switzerland it does not mean it will work in the Sudan or UK”.


Planning for Successful Change

ISQEM OHS Change Management

In part 2 of this paper we will look at the key steps you need to complete to undertake a change management analyse.  In addition we will address some of the common problems faced by OHS professionals in achieving buy-in from senior management or a board of directors

I recommend everyone to have a real good look at their organisations performance in regards to safety.  You never know, maybe it’s time for you to start making changes and move to a higher level of OHS management and compliance.


About the Author:

Wayne Harris is a highly regarded international specialist in developing corporate risk and OHS management systems with over 31 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. Wayne has vast experience in developing corporate change programmes for OHS management and leadership development.  Contact:

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  1. R. Gururaj- MIQEM permalink

    Dear Wayne Harris,

    This is yet another thought provoking article, which in essence brings into fore your expertise on this subject. We in Middle East often find ourselves in ‘lack of cohesion’ mode. The reason being, as we deal with multicultural workforce, we tend to forget that our communication is not always received at the same frequency at the other end.

    With regards
    R. Gururaj

  2. Rick permalink

    Great article Wayne. Your knowledge in OHS and senior management is something we can all learn from and help us in our everyday jobs. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading Part 2.

  3. Excellent pointers. I truly enjoyed reading and digesting this and I’m gladly sharing it, with your kind permission. It echoes all the cornerstones of my recommended general approach to OHS management. Thank you very sincerely.

  4. rodcurrey permalink

    Another Einstein favourite, We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein.

  5. Ian Ross permalink

    Some good points Wayne. The key I feel is defining exactly what constitutes a ‘proper’ analysis. Very few in the profession have been exposed to, or understand, the concept of how and when to leverage big data technology (e.g., advanced or predictive analytics) as an enabler, particularly in cases where performance improvement margins are tighter and different solutions may be needed. The mental model of the profession needs to evolve if we are to be more persuasive with the case for safety.

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