Environment, Health and Safety Governance and Leadership: the making of high reliability organisations
21st November 2017
Aimed at leaders of organisations in the high- and medium-hazard sectors, this book starts to address the gap and gives some good insights in its links to incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform explosion. In my experience, lessons from such incidents help to focus senior managers' minds. The author shows the relationship between enterprise risk management and EHS governance as well as sustainability and social accountability, all of which receive more air time in board meetings these days and are becoming more important to investors and other stakeholders.
It took me a couple of reads to get to grips with the book: it didn't flow particularly well and it has more of an academic feel than I like. It did lose some credibility when the date of the Health and Safety at Work Act was incorrect, something that the publishers should have picked up.
But these are minor quibbles. The author, who is the executive director for environment, health, safety, security, quality and corporate affairs at the ENOC group in Dubai and a member of the Institute of Directors in the UK, has undertaken in-depth research that informs decision making and has drawn on international best practice standards.
Early on, he makes the point that a lot of his thinking is based on research with organisations in the Middle East but I found this mattered little because the key points about governance are relevant regardless of where they operate. Also, he adds in lots of other examples to give the book a wide appeal.
Of the 14 chapters, there were some standouts, including the one about developing a high-reliability organisation, elements of which I believe many businesses could benefit from.
The penultimate chapter was a "lightbulb moment" for me, presenting a clearer way to understand EHS governance than other models I have seen.
For those in safety leadership roles, I'd say this book is a must. After all, most of the time they will sit on (or support) a board of some description or an organisation's executive committee and can use the insights easily and quickly to obtain results in the short and longer term.
However, I suspect that, though there is some value in the subjects discussed, most practitioners would probably struggle to apply the principles more generally.