Starting In A New OHS Role

Starting In A New OHS Role

George-guidance-book-cover_thumbClassic article by the late George Robotham. Get George’s Free Ebook Here

1. Introduction

“When initiating change remember that people support what they create”

2. The above motto was discovered by myself during study into Management of Organisational Change. The motto seems to fit well with introducing OHS change. To be successful in OHS change you must involve all the stakeholders. Ignoring the front line workers is the road to disaster.

3. From time to time inappropriate behaviours occur, it is essential to have a conversation to discover why the behaviour occurred. A Kick In The Rear End approach is usually not productive. Accident victims usually do not set out to get injured, often the inappropriate behaviours occur for what are perceived to be good reasons.

4. Damage to people at work has a number of adverse outcomes:-

– Financial loss to employer, worker and community

– Pain and suffering

– Dislocation of lives

– Permanence of death

5. Damage to people from work falls naturally into one of three Classes.

Class I damage permanently alters the person’s life and subdivides into

– fatal

– non fatal

Class II damage temporarily alters the person’s life

Class III damage temporarily inconveniences the person’s life (Geoff McDonald & Associates)

Class II and Class 111 personal damage is not a good predictor of Class I damage. We must have consistent means of reporting, recording and analysing Class I personal damage.

Starting out in that new OHS role

Note-Papers referenced are available on request from

The short paper Starting Out In Safety gives some advice on landing that good OHS job. Let us assume you have landed that dream job, what the hell are you going to do?

It is essential to have a robust Safety Management System. The paper What Makes A Safety Management System Fly may assist. You need to think about how you will introduce the various elements

An essential ingredient of an excellent Safety Management System is excellent safety leadership. The paper The Things You Need To know About Safety Leadership may help. Training and procedures for safety leadership are essential.

Need a comprehensive audit of the existing safety management system if one has not been carried out recently.

Get from behind the desk and into the field

Further exploration of the existing safety management system can be achieved through facilitating a series of force field analysis at operational sites ( Similar to S.W.O.T.) With the force field analysis you brainstorm the objectives of the S.M.S. and the promoting / facilitating forces and the constraining / restraining forces. See the paper Force-Field Analysis. Whilst it is good to have managers and supervisors involved in these, consider whether their presence will inhibit the workers, separate worker sessions may be necessary.

This will give insight into the development of a strategic OHS management plan backed up by operational OHS plans. Keep it succinct

Ensuring compliance to safety legislation is the bottom line

Carry out a safety learning needs analysis for workers, supervisors and managers and facilitate learning as appropriate. Supervisors and managers tend to be overlooked in safety learning. Place particular emphasis on development of OHS skills for the frontline supervisor. Refer to the paper Learning Needs Analysis.

Enhance the OHS technical skills of OHS personnel

Enhance the broad management skills of OHS personnel eg. Interpersonal skills, communications skills, management of organisational change, leadership, learning, quality management, project management etc

Introduce teambuilding principles in the OHS team and conduct a teambuilding workshop

Concentrate on face to face communications and succinct written communications

Make is mandatory for everyone, no exceptions, to attend a short course on Hazard identification, Risk assessment, Hazard control

Develop, promote and implement internal standards of OHS excellence. Refer to the paper on this topic

Undertake an industry safety benchmarking exercise(Refer to BHP Minerals Safety Benchmarking report)

Within 100 days of commencement develop a Safety Legacy statement of what you intend to leave behind

Have a plan to coach and mentor all levels of staff in OHS

If possible have an industry taxonomy of permanently life altering, fatal and non-fatal, personal damage. Refer to the paper Taxonomy

When you discover a major OHS issue develop a project team to address it

*Remember-Often it is the relationships you build, not your technical expertise, that determines your success!

No doubt you will have other points to add.

Hearts & minds

Here is some brief advice on winning the hearts and minds of people in relationship to safety.

1 Set the safety example, learn about and place Safety Leadership high in your priority list

2 Be honest and upfront, do not bulldust, you will usually be found out eventually and your credibility will suffer

3 Have a highly visible commitment to safety. Participate in safety meetings, accident investigations, audits, inspections etc. Outline your expectations of people attending safety training

4 Build trust with employees

5 Develop a mission, goals, objectives and a vision for the safety effort

6 Carry out a safety training needs analysis and train accordingly. Use interactive training not lectures. After training devise a plan with the participant on how to implement the lessons from the training. Developing an after training project is a good idea.

7 Hold people accountable for safety performance

8 Celebrate success

9 Do what you say you will do

10 Have high safety expectations

11 Give and encourage receiving regular feedback

12 Follow up on complaints and always report back

13 Praise good work, catch people doing good and make a fuss of them. Do not underestimate the impact of a simple “Thank you”

14 Respect others / Support others. Use humour in your interaction with others

15 Minimise the bureaucracy and bulldust and have succinct paperwork

I am interested in your comments

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