Two experienced health and safety professionals explain how IOSH’s competency framework has helped them face up to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Melissa Fazackerley CMIOSH
SHEQ manager at Longworth and vice-chair of IOSH Manchester and North West Districts branch
Adapt and change
The pandemic has brought a number of challenges, not least the need to adapt and change, while the demand for health and safety has been unprecedented. However, I’ve been very much aware of the competency framework for some time now – I recently shared my tracker with colleagues from around the globe – so utilising the framework during this situation has made perfect sense.
Lead from the front
The leadership and management section of the competency framework has been a huge focus. Having to influence people a great deal within the organisation and reassure colleagues that we are able to manage health and safety even in these uncertain times has been really beneficial. Having strong and visible leadership has made people feel confident with the way we have been operating as a business.
Being that leader has meant a lot of hard work has gone in to supporting my colleagues, understanding and anticipating what questions they might ask, and where they need reassurance. Providing clarity for colleagues within the business in terms of risk management has been key. Understanding horizon scanning, anticipating future influences on the business activity and keeping up to date with guidance provided from various bodies has been important in navigating the crisis and has helped me become more aware of how we are able to influence others when it comes to occupying the ‘trusted adviser’ role.
Sensitivity to stakeholders
With a lot of construction sites either hitting pause or continuing to work, stakeholder management has also been extremely important. For us, working with our clients has been key to business continuity and we continue to work on that mutually beneficial relationship, particularly when it comes to risk management. Being able to identify what guidance is relevant to our organisation and how it applies to our activities has helped stakeholders and employees focus their energies where it really matters while avoiding an overload
of information that’s potentially irrelevant.
Utilising tech and data
Technical skills have also been really important: collecting data, analysing the results and reviewing methodology.
In some cases, the ‘nicer’ workloads have had to shuffle down in priorities to make space for solution with COVID-19. Utilising the competency framework has helped me to understand that this is a normal part of the profession: things change, and we need to be dynamic about it. Reflecting on how we did that with the framework helps us make sense of what happened, why it happened, what we could do differently or what we would repeat.
Jon Hughes CFIOSH
IOSH vice-president and global head of H&S and BMS at Turner & Townsend
Focus on the core
Over the last few months I’ve had to call upon just about every aspect of the competency framework! Whether that’s the technical competencies of risk management, incident management, interpreting ever-changing government guidelines and laws – not just here in the UK but globally – or the wide-ranging elements of the softer business skills such as communication and teamwork.
The core elements of strategy, planning and leadership have been key in navigating our way through this, both initially in closing down Turner & Townsend’s offices and supporting our people at home, and also as we continue
to support our essential workers who worked right through the pandemic. We then focused on understanding how we can safely reopen our offices around the world.
Stakeholder management, communication and working with others has been absolutely central to working our way through this crisis. Communication has had to be clear but dynamic as guidelines have changed almost daily at times, particularly here in the UK with the four nations charting different courses through the crisis. There have been multiple project teams set up to manage our response to the crisis, so I’ve been in daily contact with colleagues from a range of disciplines across our global business.
With effective management and clear communication, these challenges can be overcome
Meeting the challenge
There have been phases throughout the crisis where time management and decision-making have been more important than ever. The enforced lockdown has presented many challenges: I had never envisaged working from home for five months, but we have done it and it has broadly been a positive experience.
But these are still uncertain times and I am aware of a number of OSH professionals who are sadly out of work. IOSH has been responsive to this, with concessionary rates available for affected members and with resources such as the Benevolent Fund available for those in financial hardship. There is also the Career Hub, with plenty of free training and advice to help people back in to work as soon as possible. For those in work, it provides free resources to better develop their skill-sets.
A wealth of resources
IOSH has done a fantastic job producing a wealth of COVID-19 resources. The Returning Safely Hub is an excellent example. Of particular value to me has been the wide range of webinars and events that IOSH and its volunteers – through local branches and groups – have organised. I found the presidential team presentation on mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 particularly useful.
As we know, these are truly unprecedented times and the fast-paced and dynamic nature of events have been particularly challenging, but with effective management and clear communication, these challenges can be overcome.