Health and Safety an organisational discipline of its own
I have returned from working in Australia-don’t hold that against me and have difficulty understanding why HS is put under a HR department and does not have its own place in the executive
We talk about safety cultures and how to improve them and how it starts at the top. If we don’t have a safet professional voice in the executive where someone understands how HS works improvements will never happen. Kristen Ferguson has written about this topic on many occasions
I’m sure you all have some examples of how HR has undermined H&S in some way.
Here are two from me
I completed a board paper for my manager who was a HR specialist and she told me that the board paper was too long so she removed a few pages and submitted at the Board meeting.
A few days later I got an email from my manager asking me to explain why some of the info did not make sense. The reason was she had deleted commentary around a graph so that the paragraph below was not relevant.
The worst one is my manager asking me to change risk rating for Hazards and Incidents logged in a Data base because the board did not want to see incidents rated High.
There really needs to be some changes where H&S sit in the executive like it does In Aussy to enable a qualified professional having a voice to assist in improving safety standards at the top where safety culture begins.
Passionate about safety
I have come across this in numerous organizations where the HR function takes on the accountability of the HSE. I find that the problem is mainly the lack of understanding on the basic fundamentals of health and safety, what the requirements for the organization are and what needs to be done.
I have attended HSE conferences where the HR Managers send the HR advisors to attend not realizing that they need to have a basic understanding of HSE legislation, due diligence and duty of care.
Most of the time you will find that the lack of knowledge is due to lack of training at the senior and mid management level. Most companies have HSE systems but for some reason is not part of the leadership training.
A comprehensive training program would include training for the board members in regards to the HSE legislative responsibilities, what is the meaning due diligence means, the purpose of a health and safety management system, what is expected from them, what Key Performance Measurement (KPIs) and Key Performance Measurements (KPMs) are, etc.
I'd have thought that as a discipline it lies with Operational Managers.
I think TracyR hits the nail on the head. Somehow, someone, needs to be able to inform the Board of the potential risk they face by having a H&S reporting mechanism that tells them anything other than exactly how it is.
If they don't want to see Incidents rated 'High' then make sure they allow the conversation to be had that explains the process involved in mitigating the risk to a 'Medium' or less.
I personally won't join an organisation if HSW sits under HR. It either stands as it's own discipline (extremely rare) or under either Risk or Operations. If it sits under either of these I prepare and present the Board papers and sit in on Board meetings to discuss the HSW portion. I have had too many problems where messages just don't get delivered appropriately by having some one else deliver them.
I too have found this considerably frustrating seeing H & S encompassed within HR as it often conflicts and I too have had experiences of peers in HR "amending" facts and this is unacceptable. Whilst I can see their logic as some organisations are not that large so to an organisation it may seem logical it is little more than a marriage of convenience. H & S is a specialist profession in its own right. Some of us are members of the only chartered safety institution in the world or other highly regarded institution and having facts watered down is not real. H & S needs a line direct to the most senior person in the organisation for good reason and not via an HR person. Remembering that H & S can be also be viewed as a legal position advising on matters of law relating to H & S. My two penneth...
Just as I see HR as a profession, I also see H&S as a profession in its own right. The trouble with having H&S under HR is that H&S needs to be part of core business, how are things are done - not just a supporting service.
Businesses are in it to make money. They shouldn't be looking at an opportunity and then deciding how to make the work safe. They should be looking at an opportunity and deciding how to do the work safely. Good safety = good business. The more H&S is incorporated, the more profit will be made. This is why I think H&S should sit under Operations.
I agree with Julie and the rest. H&S requires it to have it's own space and report directly to the Executive team or GM. For it for fall under HR in my mind is bad for businesses. HR is all about the people and can be deemed the fluffy stuff, H&S is all about the people but the serious side of the business.
Following a large merger my national health and safety role moved from operations/business development and came under HR. I concluded that health and safety didn’t belong there, nor did I.
My experience was that when health and safety came under HR it became more bureaucratic and placed more emphasis on statistics rather than what was going on in the business.
My current role is stand-alone, working in operations and reporting to a Board. It’s the best place to be for a health and safety professional who wants to understand the business from a grass roots perspective, keep people safe and integrate safety into all aspects of the organisation.
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