Is your SHEQ system effective, or is your risk partner helping you to window dress?

Is your SHEQ system effective, or is your risk partner helping you to window dress?

There’s more to SHEQ management than a once-off report, or a risk consultant trying to sell you safety concepts. An effective SHEQ management system needs to be holisticand Health conference and AGM. SHEQ MANAGEMENT attended to learn more about this important organisation.

SHEQ management systems have developed considerably over the last decade – yet companies still place trust in their systemic performance, in the reflections provided by audit outcomes or lagging indicator performance profiles – this is a clear indication that little is known, by organisations, about systemic effectiveness.

When we visit companies, we regularly see how certification of management systems are displayed on walls for all to see, but, being in the industry and having first-hand experience, one needs to ask the question: are you serious about SHEQ principles, or are you just ticking boxes for show?

Two sayings in our industry hold very true: the absence of incidents and injuries does not denote the presence of a safety culture; and, measure what you value, don’t value what you measure.

If we look at something simple like the safety file: How many contractors are purchasing a file, which has been compiled for general use to fulfil the needs of the client agents, rather than providing valuable insight into associated risk?

Our industry is quickly becoming saturated by smaller start-up companies run by disgruntled former employees of bigger organisations, who believe their experience warrants them becoming a “professional supplier”.

Is your risk partner adding value to your business?

How often do contractors find they need a health and safety file to back up a tender, or to start working on a site, and the quickest solution is to buy one off the shelf? This puts both the contractor and the client on ethically shaky ground, and SHEQ compliance now becomes moot.

Occupational health and safety management is not a once-off activity, a file, a report or an induction session. It is not separate specialists managing different aspects of SHEQ.

It is an integrated, sustained and continuously improving system, in support of a culture that has to permeate everything undertaken in the workplace, and eventually at home too.

The Institute for Sustainable Risk Management has a particular and different approach to SHEQ principles. We believe in the process and we drive our customers to achieve excellence through an effective and value-added approach.

There are important issues that must be addressed. There are also certain difficult questions that must be answered when starting out, or when you are reviewing the systems you already have in place:

1. What approach do you choose? Is it behaviour-based safety, or a systematic approach?

2. Is your system driven by management, or by employees?

3. What contributing factors are important enough to measure, in creative ways, to effectively and proactively prevent and manage occurrences?

In order for SHEQ management to be effective, there has to be safety leadership, not just safety management. It’s fundamental to recognise the difference between the two, and there must be an emphasis on the importance of leadership.

Added to this, is the fact that safety must be integrated into every aspect of the business. Too many businesses see safety as an “add on”. Effective systems are well planned, continually organised, well led, monitored and evaluated.

Safety also can’t be isolated from other aspects of the organisation. It has to be integrated into every part of the business, including people and financial management. So developing a safety culture should really be part of the overall corporate culture.

Don’t be misled by risk consultants that try to sell concepts about safety. Safety is not a buzzword or a craze. An effective service provider will help to identify the value in safety – it can no longer be window dressing.

We find, too often, that SHEQ principles are not viewed as core values, but rather as priorities. The problem with this is priorities change. Safety cannot, therefore, be listed or seen to be a priority. It’s a constant and should be viewed as such.

We need to stop listening to those who profess to understand safety while viewing it as an off-the-shelf item. Safety is not a cost, but rather an investment that yields rewards. When it comes to overall company improvement, SHEQ principles must be what define the organisational goals.

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