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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Lacking leadership?

Lacking leadership?
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The health and safety profession does not have the leaders it deserves, according to a majority of delegates at the IOSH conference in London in July.

While a panel debated the topic, delegates voted in an online poll. Fewer than 20% said the profession had the leadership it deserved, with 55% voting no, and the remainder unsure.

Panel members were similarly split, with only the HSE’s Kevin Myers expressing confidence in industry leadership. Taking the negative view were Global OHS vice president for Sodexo, Alastair Davey, and QuEnSH consultancy’s Donna Hutchison.

As OHS outsiders, the remaining panel members – chief executive of the Institute of Leadership of Management, Charles Elvin, and Dr Kate Maguire, who heads the doctoral programme for high impact professionals at Middlesex University – opted not to take sides.

Davey described the profession as “immature”, citing negative attitudes towards OHS in the wider population as evidence of leadership failure.“In public discourse we’re not hearing a supportive voice to push health and safety and explain why it is an enabler for business,” he said. “Too often we see it described in negative terms, with no mention of the positive benefits and how they align with business results.”

Myers acknowledged that, in some situations, health and safety had been “picked up as a justification for jobsworths”, but suggested that it had become a victim of its own success.

“I do think we have the leaders that we deserve, but that doesn’t mean everything is hunky-dory.

“To impact and influence we need health and safety professionals operating in quality assurance rather than quality control mode, and to almost do themselves out of business by getting everyone to take responsibility.”

Practitioners needed a better understanding of business to become effective leaders, Hutchison said. “Businesses are not there to do health and safety. Health and safety is there to support what they do. To make a difference, practitioners must understand the business they’re supporting.”

Elvin pointed out that leadership was not about being in charge, but about inspiring and persuading others to follow willingly.

“If you have control people don’t get a choice – it may look like leadership because they’re following your instructions, but are they doing it willingly?

“It’s unlikely in my view that a health and safety professional would be CEO of a multinational oil company, for example, so leadership must come from influence, inspiration, and getting people to willingly follow your direction rather than from having control.”



People Mentioned:
Donna Hutchison; Kevin Myers; Alastair Davey; Charles Elvin; Kate Maguire
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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