Safety advisers need to communicate authentically and inspire the people around them.

Our tried and tested formula has worked in the past, but continuing to do what we have always done is failing. The world is much more sophisticated, hyper-connected and ultra competitive.

We cannot ignore the harsh realities and tough choices that our economy faces. Traditional business structures and relationships are breaking down. Business leaders are having to evolve as well; from hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding.

Safety practitioners can no longer rely on their positional or technical authority. They need to develop the skills to communicate authentically and to inspire people around them.

The most popular SHP Feature articles of 2012

Our most popular features in 2012

CPD article – Tides of opinion

David Branson compares the legal concepts of ‘reasonably practicable’ and ‘reasonably foreseeable’, in respect of breaches of health and safety law and civil liability for accidents, and explores the changing interpretation of both terms by the courts.
London 2012 – A question of trust

With the countdown to the largest sporting event in UK history now in full swing it would be easy to forget what has already been achieved by the London 2012 Olympics, such as the impressive safety record of ‘the big build’. Caroline Sugden and Nicola Healey explain how safety culture – and, in particular, health and safety trust – was developed, fostered and measured on the Olympic Park site.

Developing the profession – Brand of opportunity

In the first of a series of articles examining what practitioners can learn from the business practices of some of the most successful companies in the world, Peter Roddis looks at how ‘brand’ has the power to change the world of health and safety.

Occupational health – Lighting the way

What can be learnt from the award-winning occupational-health provision on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village construction projects, and replicated on the more typical site? Claire Tyers evaluates its potential legacy.

Environment – Scene to be green

The Government’s current appetite for relaxing the reporting requirements for health and safety incidents doesn’t appear to be matched in the environmental sphere. Martin Baxter explains the current regulatory scene on green issues, the changes in reporting on the horizon, and the opportunities opening up for both health and safety and environmental practitioners.

To read the articles and more click here to go to the SHP feature articles index

The future of health and safety depends on Active Safety Management and simplicity

My recent article examines the importance of obsessing over the customer experience. How our role is not just about pushing knowledge of health and safety to those whose minds we want to change but also about engaging people in an active partnership, or dialogue, where we also try to understand where they are coming from, thus resulting in more creative and innovative outcomes. We need to think more in terms of the dance; moving with those around us, rather than telling others to dance to our tune

Focus and simplicity were Steve Jobs’ mantras and my article explores how important these are to health and safety. Our focus has got to be on the outcomes and not just on the regulations. If we are to design an offer that is attractive to our customers then we have to realise that less is more, and work harder at stripping out the superfluous from what we do.

We need a clean break with the past. Overly cautious and limiting expert opinion, made in isolation from the reality of the businesses we work for, will not influence anyone. We need to develop the confidence to explain effectively who we are, what we do and what we are trying to achieve. To do this, we can “walk the straight path of simplicity, or choose the dark winding road of complexity”; the choice is ours.
Developing the profession – Let’s face the music
01 October 2012
To read the full version of my article in the Safety and Health Practitioner in October 2012, please click
Lets face the music

Brand of opportunity – The health and safety brand matters!

According to Gallup, we are attracted to brands not merely because they meet our rational requirements but because they meet our emotional needs. To engage people and build relationships with the health and safety brand we need passion, enthusiasm and sense of purpose. As practitioners, we need to understand how our role fits into the bigger picture of our employers’ or clients’ business, and to align health and safety policies with their objectives. To be successful in this we need to see the world through our customers’ eyes, understand what motivates them to act, and have insight into why they make the decisions they do. We need to be constantly thinking about how we communicate with them. We need to ensure that health and safety is part of their business planning, forecasting and strategy, and not a separate add-on. An obsession with regulations, HSE guidance and codes of practice will engage no one, outside of the profession. The real value added by health and safety is in applying a detailed knowledge of the business, having the ability to quickly identify gaps, and proactively support and enable delivery of safe business outcomes. That means we need to do a much better job of selling ‘the connection between a healthy, safe workforce and a healthy business balance sheet’.
However, our challenge when dealing with managers, teachers, academics, engineers, civil servants and business people is not only to speak the same language but to win hearts and minds. We have become too focused on reason and forgotten that emotions are the processes we use to assign value. If we can demonstrate that health and safety is about customers achieving their dreams, then we are more likely to win them over. It is crucial for us to understand that people cannot make sensible decisions without emotions, because they wouldn’t know how much anything is worth. We also have to accept that, in reality, decisions are made by imperfect minds in ambiguous circumstances. Thus, working more closely with managers will enable us to provide more realistic and pragmatic support and have greater influence at strategic and operational levels. Passion creates interest, but a long-term relationship can’t be maintained unless the brand proves its ability to deliver. To be successful, health and safety needs to nurture win-win relationships that are continuously strengthened through interactive, individualised and value-added contact. This suggests a need for a range of new and different job-focused skills for practitioners, under-pinned by health and safety competencies and knowledge. Our success will depend on us gaining a better understanding of the businesses we work for. To develop this, we need to have strong personal credibility, and this depends on our ability to influence, communicate, motivate and deliver support services that managers can relate to. It is time for the profession to look at how it can bring softer people skills into its core competency framework.
To read the full article go to Brand of Opportunity

Does health and safety need to move on? – Part one

This is the first of a series of articles based on an article published in SHP Magazine in 2011. The articles will be amended to reflect developments since it was originally published. Sign up to my blog for notification of when parts 2 and 3 are published.

For the past few years we have been under constant pressure and attack by the government and the media. I think it is time for the profession to move on by facing the challenges head on. The health and safety brand needs to change and we all have a role in achieving this. In a depression no one is spared the harsh realities of the economic crisis, but cutting costs must not translate into cutting corners in keeping people at work healthy and safe. In these uncertain times we need to demonstrate that we are up to the challenge of delivering services that offer real value. Health and safety can’t sit in the corner licking its wounds waiting for the challenge to go away. The challenge strikes at the very root of what we do and what we are trying to achieve. Navel gazing will not move the profession forward, we need a new outlook. So what does that mean in practice?

Technical Specialists

One of the most fundamental changes is the need to move away from a passive technical service to a more active partnership with the client. It is not just about raising the profile of health and safety but about providing a clearer understanding of what the service is trying to achieve and how that contributes to the organisations objectives. The profession needs to be less focused on the technical aspects of the job and take a wider more business focused perspective. As technical specialists, practitioners are often involved in a fairly passive exchange of information and advice. They try to take a holistic approach, but do they really take the time to stand back and reflect on the whole collection of services they deliver?

Active Partnership

Practitioners need to realise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to service delivery, particularly in large and complex organisations, and develop the expertise required to identify and deal with a variety of customer demands. They need courage, tenacity, experience and ability to work on their own initiative and deliver services that the client needs to survive. The common approach to Auditing provides a prime example of how we need to change. Non-compliance is often identified as a local fault, but an effective system should alert managers that something is systemically wrong. This illustrates the importance of evaluating audit outcomes to identify the trends and any overall improvements to the safety management system. To be more effective, when we audit and find significant issues in a service, we need to provide support with the action required to rectify the problem. Real effective implementation of the changes required to address many health and safety problems is not easy and managers often fail to address the root cause. At first, this change of approach may be difficult because health and safety is not about identifying the non compliance and walking away. Good health and safety professionals have never done this anyway! It’s about understanding the context, working with managers, supervisors and staff in the workplace, it’s about being hands on but with the objective of improving the systems, understanding the behavioural issues and acknowledging the financial constraints.

It’s not just about senior managers!

Practitioners often see organisations as command and control hierarchies; if the boss says something is important then everyone will follow. Its is crucial to get senior managers on board, but it’s only part of the picture. A related problem in large organisations is that we often have more than one client to satisfy. Senior managers, for example, seek assurance that the organisation is compliant with legal requirements, while local managers are looking for a more hands-on support. We have to design service delivery to suit our organisations and deliver clearly defined outcomes that managers at levels buy into.

It’s not just about legal compliance

While the legal argument is compelling, managers also need to understand that failure to control health and safety risks properly can have a damaging effect on the business. Practitioners need to be more effective at communicating this message to managers, by using more sophisticated business arguments to justify changes to the way that safety is managed. The arguments need to relate to risk, opportunity and efficiency as part of an overall approach to corporate governance. To achieve this, practitioners need to develop an active-partnership approach.
I will be exploring what this means in future postings.

This post is based on an article first published in the Safety and Health Practitioner in 2011 to support a presentation to the IOSH Conference 2011 http://www.shponline.co.uk/features-content/full/iosh-11-clearing-the-decks

IOSH Safety Symposium – maintaining high levels of health and safety under difficult economic circumstances

Speaking at the IOSH Safety Symposium this year I outlined the need for health and safety professionals to change by adopting a business and systems focused approach. I discussed the need for improvements in terms of leadership, combined with a more structured approach to compliance. With scarce resources there is greater need to focus on priorities. I also talked about the benefits of OHSAS18001 certification.

IOSH National Safety Symposium presentation on maintaining high levels of H&S under difficult economic conditions http://bit.ly/nhbtH4

For slides in pdf format please link to my Safety Conference Presentations tab or select this link:

Safety Conference presentation

National Safety Symposium 2011 Cutting costs, not corners Oxford Belfry Hotel, OX9 2JW 05–06 September 2011


Attend and hear the author of this blog speak on

Public sector crisis – maintaining high levels of safety under difficult economic circumstances


This year’s National Safety Symposium will focus on managing health, safety and wellbeing in the current economic climate. With a mix of networking opportunities, practical breakout sessions, case studies, CPD/IPD clinics and expert advice and debate, the conference has something for everyone.
Now in its 36th year, the National Safety Symposium remains the event for health and safety professionals in the public sector. While the event is traditionally associated with local authorities and public service bodies, it’s now aimed at anyone in the public services, healthcare, education or
environmental and waste management sectors who is responsible for managing or organising health and safety.

Why attend?
NSS 2011 is an ideal opportunity to network and debate, develop new skills and knowledge, share ideas and learn from some of the industry’s leading organisations, including the HSE, Department for Work and Pensions, The Open
University, Unison, E.ON UK, Shanks and HSL.
The conference will look at the future of the HSE, the public sector crisis, policing health and safety, leadership, horizon scanning, health and wellbeing in practice, health and safety strategies in local government, achieving OHSAS 18001 in uncertain times, and much more.
To book your place download the conference brochure or contact Ruth Atterbury on +44 (0)116 257 3378.