Consultant and academic Andrew Sharman and former Health and Safety Executive chair – and current EEF employers’ body chair – Judith Hackitt are clearly aiming to promote top-down understanding of what good safety and health management looks like and how senior executives can help shape it.
The authors also want to break down their readers’ preconceptions about OSH professionals. “In these pages we’ll help you recast your relationships with experts in health and safety,” they promise.
To remove some of the common misunderstandings among executives of what makes for sound safety management, they explain the theoretical framework that underpins it. The text is interspersed with crash courses in concepts such as risk perception and cognitive biases, Heinrich’s safety triangle (and its limitations), root cause analysis and the hierarchy of controls.
They explain the traps that organisations (and OSH practitioners) can fall into: fetishising zero accidents, letting regulation drive policy and over-reliance on paperwork. They introduce readers to the idea that OSH is not just about preventing harm, but should be framed as a more dynamic protective process. They emphasise the value of creating a positive, enquiring safety culture, learning from accidents and moving on.
The emphasis throughout is on setting tone at the top and the role those at board level should play in making sure they are not focusing on the wrong metrics or creating a blame culture.
The style is clear and conversational, with plenty of personal anecdotes and examples of good and bad corporate practice.
The central conceit may be a little simplistic for the average MBA graduate; echoing the story of Goldilocks and the three bears it suggests that rather than too little or too much safety and health management in an organisation, executives should be looking for the amount that’s “just right”. But if it introduces board members to the fact that more is not always better in the eyes of the profession, then it’s a useful image.
The book should give any senior manager you can persuade to read it a refreshed view of the OSH profession and a clear idea of the support you can offer their business. Then, of course, you’ll have to live up to their expectations.
£20 paperback | £12 ebook | 25% off for IOSH Magazine readers with code IOSH25 www.fromaccidentstozero.com