How practitioners can help safeguard their budgets
Friday 16th November 2018
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
That's worth remembering if you find yourself in tough negotiations over what you believe are essential funds to maintain safety standards.
Managing and finance directors often find that the variables influencing an organisation's income stubbornly refuse to conform to their best-laid budgets. The lever left to them to maintain growth rates demanded by investors, or just to balance the books, is in-year budget trimming.
Safety and health spending is almost inevitably included in these cost-cutting discussions. That's fine when it's just a question of putting off investment in nice-to-have wellbeing programmes, but not when it comes to safety training or checks on lifting equipment.
In IOSH Magazine's December 2018 leader interviewThames Water's OSH head Karl Simons explains how he inverted the priority for assurance of the company's assets, such as pressure vessels and chemical storage tanks, so that the company's divisional directors' financial stretch targets did not tempt them to cut safety inspections below planned numbers.
Gathering statements at the start of the year of the number of inspections needed to reassure the organisation of the assets' integrity, Simons was able to set the number that had to be maintained. As he asks, who would want to be the director that insisted on leaving unchecked a piece of equipment that went on to fail, causing harm or environmental damage?
Your organisation may not have as many potentially hazardous operations, or a product which, as Simons says, poses as much public risk if it is contaminated.
But for those elements you see as vital to safeguarding the organisation and its workers, getting a minimum level acknowledged in writing well before the reforecasts and economy drives start nibbling at the edges, sets a marker that top management will find risky to stray from. Because it might come back to bite them.
If that sounds like strong-arming directors, it is, but only for their own good.
I remember talking to the safety director of a national public services provider who had been struggling to persuade the executive board to keep to its commitment to update its members' OSH training.
Eventually he told the company secretary that the email trail of cancelled dates risked becoming evidence to the authorities of the corporate approach to safety in a future fatality investigation.
As he pointed out, it wasn't a threat, just a statement of fact. (One that resulted in an immediate firm date for the board training.)
If you can translate the components of your organisation's duty of care into explicit commitments that are hard to row back from, that's good discipline for all concerned.
But the question recently considered by the Sentencing Council, which provides guidance to criminal courts on penalties in England and Wales, is whether it was right that white-collar directors whose gross negligence results in a workplace fatality received more lenient sentences, often avoiding imprisonment.
The authors share four keys for breaking the rules that reveal that the most effective managers focus on talent, outcomes, developing strengths, and finding the right fit.Conventional management suggests we should select people based on their experience, intelligence and determination. Buckingham and Coffman say break this rule: choose employees based on talent rather than experience.
Now in his 90th year, Schein is still at the cutting edge of human psychology.This is the fifth book in his “humble” series – co-authored with his son, Peter – and extends the belief Schein has preached tirelessly: that we all need to be more human – whether at work, in consulting others, when asking questions, or when seeking to support. It’s an essential companion for OSH practitioners.
It's an understandable desire; a strong safety culture takes a weight off the shoulders of an OSH practitioner because safeguarding themselves and others becomes every worker's concern and helps make poor risk control exceptional rather than a constant fear. (When the management guru Peter Drucker famously said culture "eats strategy for breakfast" he was only stating the fact that things as they are usually trump things as you would like them to be.)
A region of seven nations was engaged in constant warfare. Sun Tzu was a general under King Helu and proved an effective strategist.He wrote Art of War as a guide for military officers planning strategy. Sun Tzu saw war as a form of art, requiring thought, vision and dexterity.Today, though, we might reclassify his approach as the "science of war" as he strips back and analyses the factors to consider when engaging an enemy.Whatever could this book have to do with the art and science of safety management?
The session was based on what are seen as the traditional career paths for safety professionals: adviser, to manager, to group level manager, to head of, and lastly director. But what I wanted our audience to consider was, why stop there?I started by getting us thinking about the average FTSE 100 company chief executive, a 46-year-old white male, who attended Oxford or Cambridge and has a degree in economics, law or business.
Safety interventions should be practicable and cost-effective, but too much of an imbalance towards safety does not make economic sense for employers, argues Geoff Vaughan, who suggests ‘gross disproportion’ provides a practical limit.