We are back again with, Safety expert, Andy Kimpton to continue our conversation about the face of safety in the workplace. In our last conversation we discussed how things have and are continuing to change, today we look what should the safety professional be focusing on in the ever evolving business landscape.
In this interview:
But before we touch on that. Andy tell us, why are you so passionate about Safety?
It’s simple really – Protect people and the environment. We all should enjoy safety and a safe environment to live and work. Sounds cliché but true.
I was the victim in early 1990’s of an industrial accident and lost a substantial percentage of my lung function and acquired occ asthma as a result, others weren’t so lucky. It further enlightened me to where safety was (Lost Time prevention vs Harm prevention)
Sorry to hear that, so I can definitely understand why you want to ensure other have a safe workplace to come to. You’ve mentioned that practical capability, experience and business acumen should be a core component of the safety role, what would you suggest to arm safety professionals with this experiences and/or knowledge?
My experience and focus was to seek other experience and qualifications outside the OHS specialisation, e.g. operations management (manage a P & L not just the cost centre of your OHS function and use OHS subject matter expertise to uplift operational performance.), project management, enterprise risk management, financial management, business administration management all of these add to the value chain of ones business and OHS is no different, but you have to be able to engage to influence.
Finally work on your own leadership and influencing skills , your EQ as an individual and a current or future leader. Balance and broaden your subject matter expertise and qualifications outside OHS which gets you a seat at the table in many discussions, improvement opportunities and to advise and influence.
Given the broadening of the safety discussion is it becoming unreasonable to expect someone to be in expert in it all? How should we move forward as a profession?
My personal view, generally yes a practitioner and professional is a generalist at best and either is a senior level advisor to the C Suite or rolling their sleeves up. The C suite advisor still needs to roll their sleeves up and get out there to be effective. Either role may have some subject matter expertise or knowledge through education of experience in specific industries or fields, but both must know the value of their network to expand their access to knowledge and information.
The workplace and the business environment we operate in today continues to become complex, complicated, and evolving technologies challenge us all in understanding how to manage these risks and work with those at the forefront of these emerging areas. Organisational cultural maturity plays a significant part to this and us as a profession need to understand this and work within that organisational, industry, commercial context and level of maturity whilst understanding the social and community expectations to influence and effect sustainable change.
Despite long standing legislation, regulation, codes, guidelines, standards across States and Territories in AU, people still are seriously injured, physically, psychologically or both, or worse, killed in activities where the risks are clearly able to be identified from our existing states of knowledge, statistical and operational, but may be not be by those in harms way….so what do we do as safety people and a profession to influence and engage in the workplace to transform these issues and change these tragic trends. There lies the million dollar question as everyone has an opinion and many experiences to demonstrate success at varying levels and varying contexts.
Since moving to Vietnam, within a country with substantial growth across its fast developing economy and looking at the laws and decrees implemented in recent years here and the level of maturity of OHS, I only hope that we dont go down same pathways of compliance for compliance sake over real safety, many will have an opinion on that, mine is simple, back to basics, focus on the key risks and systematically steer the course whilst being agile enough to change direction where circumstances exist and stop listening to the so called social media driven “thought leaders” regurgitating the past.
It is apparent to me from my experience in AU that over time the word “safety” has become in many cases less about the people and the workplace and more about stats, reports, compliance, bureaucracy, due diligence and responsibilities of officers, all of which end up as a punitive position not a preventive one. Many academics, far more learned and qualified than me have described this repeatedly, Hudson, Dekker, Conklin et al, yet what changes consistently at the coal face as we continue to read of tragic deaths of workers, especially those young ones all too often.
The core principles of WHS risk management should be built upon with areas of expertise dependent on the industry and the sources of potential harm in the business. There is a plethora of information available to practitioners and professionals in the OHS/WHS space. Its determining how to focus on the key issues that will ensure prevention of injuries, illness and death. The OHS Body of Knowledge and INSHPO Capability Framework for OHS Professionals are excellent tools and frameworks as reference for professionals and practitioners. INSHPO documents go to the point of moving beyond competency to capability. I still believe a strong network of diverse individuals is an excellent and practical way to share, seek counsel and identify solutions already in place.
If you take the emerging issues around mental health in the workplace, and the wider community. The management of this requires trained specialist medical practitioners to address the psychological, psycho-social and related health issues, I dont believe this is a competence or capability of any trained safety person, nor should it be, unless they have extended their experience and qualifications in this area of expertise. What the profession needs to do is look at the ways of working, the evolution of workplaces and the interaction with work and people in the workplace that may create, contribute or exacerbate these health issues and seek to mitigate these risks through very carefully considered intervention, by those who specialise in these areas.
Great insights Andy, thanks so much for your time.