Has Health & Safety Had It’s Day?


When we’re running our leadership development workshops, we like to generate passionate discussion within the group so pose questions that energise people and divide opinion. One question almost guaranteed to work is this:

“Does Health & Safety take a back seat when it comes to maximising the performance of your company?”

Usually some individuals argue that ‘safety first’ is paramount in all situations. On the other hand other people, especially those responsible for hitting targets, often state a different, more cynical view. 

Other people argue that individuals who carry performance targets have a tendency to cut corners and do whatever needs to be done, regardless sometimes of the inherent risks this represents.

The fact that we hear this argument play out so often shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether we like it or not, Health & Safety appears to be more interesting to people who have it in their job title than people who have responsibility for ensuring that it is a way of life. 

Unfortunately for too many people Health & Safety (H&S) still has connotations of either red tape or extra work and hassle. Even to people who should innately understand its importance. 

Is it time to give H&S a makeover? How do we actually get people excited about H&S? 

As with any attempt to communicate, we need to talk in a way that appeals to those we are trying to influence – and there are some very compelling arguments for those charged with the performance of your organisation, to take as much notice of the opportunities as those involved in health and safety.

Take the example of the train driver who went through a red light and derailed recently, due to that driver being distracted by using their mobile phone – and despite attending a health & safety briefing on that very subject not 30 minutes prior to the crash!

With the minimum cost of a derailment to the business being reported to us as c£1million, how many paying passengers would have to be carried to generate the profit to put that £1 million back on the bottom line?

If we could offer the person in charge of organisational performance at that company an initiative guaranteed to create a safer environment AND generate an additional £1 million in profit, do you believe there’s a fair chance they might sit up and take a keen interest?

Part of what we do at GENIUS Performance is deal with the personal challenges that are getting in the way of our employees performing at their best and / or distracting them from carrying out their work in a safe manner.

We call this part of our business ‘Performance Coaching’ and it’s all about maximising the well-being of employees, helping individuals feel better about what they do by feeling better about themselves, so they can be ‘in the moment’ whilst at work and not be distracted by other things.

We developed Performance Coaching because we recognised that, given the pressure of life today, anyone at some point in their career could encounter overwhelming or challenging circumstances. Many actually do and this is estimated to be costing UK industry 90 million workdays per year.  (See if the performance analysts in your business can quantify the upside of a remedy to this kind of KPI!)

Sometimes the cause is something at work. Other times it maybe something outside of work. The truth is it doesn’t really matter as ether way it affects our work performance and poses potential safety risks if not addressed. 

Work issues include areas like stress, managing workload, relationships with customers or colleagues, loss of confidence, focus or motivation. 

Personal issues could be derived from any event or experience, including trauma, family relationships, bereavement, depression, anxiety, phobias, pain-control, OCD’s, loss of life/career purpose or debilitating habits and beliefs.

Whatever the cause, investing in the sort of employee support that is valued by the workforce (as opposed to simply ticking a box for the employer!) and seeks to quickly remedy whatever issue that is getting in the way for the individual, the payback to the employer can be quantified in many ways, as described by the company where we first piloted Performance Coaching almost a decade ago:

“We’re getting about a ten-times payback. Our people are here more, they are happier, healthier and contributing more.  We’ve improved our retention, improved our employer brand, improved our health and safety performance and we’re collectively more productive as a result.”

What can this teach us about the way Health & Safety presents itself? Is it time to present H&S in a new way that resonates with people who don’t have Health & safety in their job title?

Have you gone online and searched for a definition of H&S recently because It’s a revealing experience. Here’s a typical definition; 

‘Regulations and procedures intended to prevent accident or injury in workplaces or public environments.’

Is it that surprising that people aren’t getting too excited about it?

What about if we said goodbye to H & S and said hello ‘HSP’?

And what is HSP? 

“Healthy, Safe Performance”.

With the inclusion of the word performance, H&S appeals directly to those with performance targets and bottom line responsibility. Which in todays world is a rapidly growing and highly influential audience.

Unlike H&S, HSP promotes the mutually beneficial link between H&S and performance. It makes the point that they’re complementary, not conflicting goals.

We live in an image driven world where perception matters. If you want people on board with you, you have to speak their language. 

It’s no good trying to sell people what they ‘need’, you have to sell them what they ‘want’!

As featured in October 2018 edition of the RailStaff magazine.

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