Feeding the H&S system vs learning about work
In the May/June edition of Safeguard magazine we pose three questions based on stories in the magazine. One of them is this:
Sidney Dekker and Todd Conklin argue that H&S practitioners can become dejected if their role requires them to focus too much on the 'work of safety' (feeding the system) and too little on the 'safety of work'.
How often do you feel you spend more time managing safety systems and documentation rather than mixing with workers and learning about their work?
Feel free to respond here on the Forum, or privately
via a Survey Monkey form.
An edited selection of responses will be published in the July/August edition, but with no names attached. One randomly selected person will receive a prize, namely a copy of the book
The Healthy Workforce
, by Stephen Bevan and Cary L. Cooper.
If an organisation has a truely embedded safety culture, then the H&S practitioner should be just
of the people that should be mixing with workers and learning about work. If the job of H&S is left to the H&S team (and therefore understanding how work is actual done) then there is a great chance that the management team are not engaging with employees and that safety is not everyone's responsibility but the responsibility of the H&S department. in my humble opinion, the H&S team need to
the rest of the organisation and not do the work for them. If feeding the system takes up so much of the practitioner's time then it may be time to review the system. Supporting and engaging with the management team, as well as the workers, will lead to a more embedded approach, encourage ownership at at levels and ensuring that work really is safe (and not just because there is a monster of a system!)
I agree with Rob. Part of the role is to build the capability of the board, senior managers and right down to front-line staff. My goal as a health and safety practitioner is to make my job redundant, which would mean health and safety is imbedded in the organization that my services as a advisor would no longer be needed.
It's a long road and an interesting journey ahead...
Amber van Polanen
I also agree, finding the balance can be difficult. In the end though no matter how many procedures you write, systems you set up and rules you enforce without the engagement and cooperation of your team it will not be successful. So, I find that no matter how long the 'to do' list gets I always make time to speak to staff before implementing anything new, I often they have great ideas to contribute and are more receptive with the end product if we do this. Great points made so far about shared responsibility, I agree that a lot of the H&S role (in my case) is about helping and supporting others to fulfill their H&S duties, it is everyone's job to 'do' H&S.
Amber van Polanen
, it is everyone's job to 'do' H&S.
Amber van Polanen
It's not so easy to define in a not-for-profit organisation, we don't all live in an ideal world where management says jump and gives you a no-springs trampoline with safety net to do so. I am currently doing the foundation work for a new system, but it has taken me a month and a half to get the basics in place and I am just now starting the consultations, feedbacks, interactions, testing and updating etc. For us it is a question of capability and capacity to get the ball rolling, and not complacency or a lack of buy in.
So yeah, I agree with Sidney and Todd, being focussed on the paperwork for one topic is driving me bonkers and I welcome every opportunity to jump off track! But the end result of this task is going to be an amazing body of work.
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